Funny the World...


May 12, 2000

After a delay of a couple of weeks, caused by my trip to Santa Barbara and the trip to DC, I’m back in the saddle again. On Friday I drove Priscilla to her clinic appointment. It was nice to see her after about three weeks. They’ve found more cancer, so she’s starting her third round of chemotherapy. To date, I’ve only driven her for her methadone injections twice a week (she goes daily, but it’s an hour round trip for me to go to her house, take her to the doctor and come back again and some days I can’t give that much time to taking her).

Monday Priscilla already had a ride, so I took Irv, a gentleman I had never driven before. His wife was to have accompanied us to CARES (the AIDS clinic), but had gone earlier in the day. Irv is one of the long-term AIDS survivors. He was diagnosed 12 years ago and has had his share of ups and downs. In he last three months he’s been hospitalized for pneumocystis pneumonia and is still pretty weak, but is hanging in there. He was moving kind of slowly on Monday.

It was interesting talking to Irv because he’s so open about his disease, the problems facing AIDS patients, the contribution of the gay community to AIDS research (Irv, a black man, feels that until the gay community began being infected and started exercising its political clout, AIDS was just a black drug user’s disease and who cared?).

He also told me about the problems of living in his neighborhood, which, on the surface seems to be a relatively decent place. But he says they sell cocaine on one side of the street and methamphetamine on the other side of the street and three nights prior to our ride together, a man had been shot out in front of his house. A few weeks back, the police burst into his house, ransacked it, and hauled him off to jail on suspicion of dealing drugs. He was interrogated for several hours. Turned out the paperwork had gotten mixed up and they had entered the wrong apartment. He didn’t even get an apology. He tells me he and his wife want to move, but can’t find a place they can afford, and can’t afford the moving costs if they do find a place.

This volunteer job has certainly introduced me to parts of society I’d not encountered up close and personal before. It’s so easy to sit in a nice suburban town where the police have time to ticket bicyclers for riding too fast or set a trap for folks making a "California stop" at a stop sign. A town where the city council spends its time discussing whether lights downtown should point up or down, whether potholes should be paved or preserved as historical monuments, and whether thousands of dollars should be spent to build a tunnel so toads can cross under the freeway. But move into the nearest city and you find life in all its beauty, and ugliness. Irv, from his perspective, introduced me to what he calls the new unspoken crimes: DWB and BBP (Driving While Black and Being Black in Public).

Priscilla and I had our morning together this morning, as I drove her to the clinic. She is all excited because, at 54, she’s just started a computer class. Her doctor advised against it because he’s afraid that with her new chemotherapy treatments, she will be too weak to participate in the class, but she's determined. She’s been to about five classes now and is so excited about what she’s learning. She can hardly wait to get to learn how to use a mouse.

I wish many people could meet Priscilla. She lives in a high crime area and has obviously had a very rough life (I remember her telling me about her brother, dying in her arms after he'd been shot through the head, his brains spilling out into her lap). She gets methadone each day, so she's made her share of mistakes in her life. She has AIDS. She has bowel cancer. She's lost two children. And yet she always has a smile for everyone. She spends her time caring for her family. She's trying to improve her skills. And she laughs and praises the Lord for giving her life.

What a fantastic lady. It is a privilege to help her out each week.

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created 5/11/00 by Bev Sykes