December 1st is World AIDS Day, so in honor of a dear friend I knew in college, I am re-posting a letter I wrote to him shortly after learning he had died of AIDS back in the 90's.
It's been such a long time since we've talked, but I've never forgotten those wonderful times or the beautiful friendship we shared. They were good times - weren't they? I cannot believe it's been 30 years since we graduated from college and went our separate ways. Where did all that time go?
Tim, you have no idea how many times I have thought about you over the years and wished with all my heart I could pick up the phone and call you --- especially these past 7 years. I really miss those days back in college when I'd come over to visit my boyfriend, your roommate, and he'd be gone and you and I would sit and talk about anything and everything. I think I secretly enjoyed those times as much or more than if my boyfriend had been home. You were such a good friend and an amazing listener. You always made me feel like what I had to say was the most important thing in the world to you and absolutely nothing else mattered at that moment. I really miss your quiet wisdom and sage advice. There was something about you that made you seem older and wiser than your age. Little did I know then that I would have a much better understanding of thatsomething many years later when I had children of my own.
Those 4 years of college, away from home for the first time, finding our way and learning to stand on our own two feet, were some of the best years of my life. And I have come to realize that the people whose friendships meant so much to me during those years were some of the best friends I have ever had. And you Tim were one of those friends. It's such a shame that I am realizing that so late in the game. And looking back on it, as I have so many times, I am shocked at how little thought any of us gave to how we would keep in touch once we graduated and moved on with our lives. How could we have so cavalierly walked away from such great friendships? It wasn't like we had the technology or social networking sites we have today, so what were we thinking? Were our promises to stay in touch simply easier than saying good-bye?
Seven years ago I found out one of my sons was gay. And with this revelation came the realization that I needed to find you. And that is when my search to find you began in earnest. I have never needed to talk to anyone more desperately than I needed to talk to you that day I found out. For it was with that discovery I knew almost instantaneously that you were going to be one of the very first persons I wanted to tell. And I also knew you were going to be the one who could help me understand why my son could possibly believe his dad and I would not love him if we knew he was gay. And I was quite sure you were the one who could help me understand this.
You see Tim, it was my son's secret coming out 23 years later that helped me realize what had always troubled me about your relationship with me. I had always known that you had something you were not willing or ready to share with me or anyone else. I had my suspicions, but I never knew for sure. And I did not want to push it. I figured you were not yet ready to admit it to yourself let alone to any of your friends. It bothered me a lot that you could not tell me, but I never took it personally. I knew it had nothing to do with me. You simply were not ready to share such a big secret or risk the possible fall out. What I didn't realize until I went through my son's ordeal was how much you felt you had to lose by confiding in anyone. And it had to be so much worse back then for you than seven years ago for my son. I realize now that I wasn't able to be the friend you desperately needed me to be, and for that I am so sorry.
I have thought about our relationship so many times these past 7 years. I regret that I never told you how very important you were to me. I regret not being able to tell you that NOTHING would have changed how I felt about you. I regret not being able to be there for you the way you were always there for me. And I regret the pain you must have been going through all alone. But my biggest regret of all is that I will never have the opportunity to tell you any of these things because I found your little brother through facebook last week and he confirmed my darkest fears. I am too late. He told me you passed away 15 years ago due to complications from AIDS. My heart is broken.
All I can do now is say good bye to one of the kindest and most gentle friends I have ever known and hope you can hear me. Thank you for those four great years of friendship. I know we were just kids back then, but I will treasure those memories forever. I wish I could have been the friend you needed back then. Please forgive me.
I love you.