Christmas 1997


It’s that time again – time to put the year into some sort of perspective. Forgive me if it’s my perspective. For example, I’ll leave extensive comment on the deaths of Diana and Mother Teresa (tragic the former, somewhat inevitable the latter) to more mainstream commentators on those year-end television shows.

My apartment smells of apple-cinnamon, thanks to a scented candle I found at Shopper’s Drug Mart, and I’m feeling quite “Christmasy”. Cards are arriving daily and music of the season – one theme, many variations – seems to be everywhere.

Downtown here I see such disparity between the breath-taking decorations at, say, BCE Place and the homeless folks trying to keep their butts warm on the sidewalk by sitting on cardboard as they “pan”. The beauty of the holiday lights adorning the Allan Gardens pavilion is awesome from the street, belying the dangers of walking through the park when daylight has gone (or even, occasionally, when it hasn’t!)

It’s strange how different childhood memories of Christmas come to the fore one year, then get stored away for goodness knows how many more. Case in point: I’ve been remembering how Mom used to organize the church’s junior and senior choirs to pile into cars on Sunday afternoons in December. We’d head off to two nursing homes out in the Quebec countryside – Mrs. Rankin’s in Huntingdon and the Aubin’s (or was it the Ovans’) in Ormstown – where we’d sing in the living-rooms and then go through the narrow hallways so as not to miss anyone confined to their beds.

Mom used to spend a night or two bundling up bags of red, green and white hard candies for us to give out. Some of the toothless residents must have scared the daylights out of me, although I don’t recall such a fear now. In fact, ever since my newspaper route, I’ve felt a pretty strong affinity with seniors. I was such a good boy!

I would have to say the highlight of 1997 has been my stable health, notwithstanding a three week flu straddling November and December. I achieved the ultimate goal of the AIDS “drug cocktail”, namely an undetectable viral load, in the final quarter of the year. (An even more sensitive test is supposed to be available next spring.) This, in no way, means that I’m AIDS-free but the virus has slowed to a crawl, for now, in terms of replication. The news media lately has reported an increasing drug “failure” rate. Perhaps because my best results with combination therapies were a little delayed I have yet to see any evidence of such “failure”. In any event I haven’t exhausted all the possible combinations available.

Another high point this year was my receiving a wrist-watch and plaque – from Mayor Barbara Hall if you please – for recognition of ten years of service at the AIDS Committee of Toronto. It was an exciting moment and I display both mementos proudly. I’m still quite busy in the community. I’ve just finished a two year term on my housing co-op’s board of directors, I serve on the AIDS Committee’s Advocacy Committee and the Toronto Hospital’s HIV Clinic Advisory Committee. I was recently acclaimed/elected to the Steering Committee of AIDS Action Now!, a local non-commercial, non-governmental activists’ group. In January it looks like I’ll be acclaimed as Communications Chair on the Board of Ruah: a Community of Faith, which I joined this year. (A couple of us have just published our first quarterly newsletter, which I’ll be editing.)

1997 was also the year of the hair! Since shaving my head (shaving cream and all) in September, 1995 I’ve been growing my hair – uninterrupted – to the point where it’s now pony-tail length. I’m feeling quite middle-aged hippie about the whole thing, in a nice way, and look forward to seeing how long this experiment will last (pun shamelessly intended!) A nice thick braid down to my waist kind of appeals to me. Grandma Chaplin and Uncle Homer will be rolling in their graves! I look at it this way. Why did Sir Edmund Hillary say he climbed Mount Everest? “Because it was there!” Same with my hair. Not everyone is as blessed as I am.

Thanks to the two week mail strike I’ve long since missed the deadline for cards leaving the country in time for Christmas. Although I had begun to think about my annual letter in plenty of time the aforementioned cold and flu combinations, which coincided with the postal strike, left me less than highly motivated to start writing.

I’m using a new computer, as opposed to my once trusty word processor-typewriter. To say it’s been a challenge, learning to use all this gear, doesn’t begin to describe some of my frustration. It might not seem so bad to be limping along now had I not experienced the delight of many of the bells and whistles when I first acquired the package in June. Alas, week after week, something seems to have gone wrong – mostly to do with the modem(s) and, therefore, access to the internet (which was really what compelled me to get a computer in the first place).

During my recent time of chills, sniffles and coughs I didn’t get out much other than to stock up on soup, milk and cat food as required. The second full day I was feeling better I eagerly went shopping with my friend Stephen. Shopping, usually “retail therapy” for me, seemed like mad cow disease that day. People, people, people, an inconsolable, whining four-year old in one of the check-out lines and stop and go traffic on every street except Mount Pleasant Road…eek!…and I wasn’t even driving! It was an exhausting afternoon, but exhilarating!

Over the last six months or so I’ve been trying to accept the fact that I may soon need bi-bifocals. I had resigned myself to this rite of passage having discovered – particularly when I had the flu – that I absolutely had to take my glasses off to read the newspaper (or the instructions on cough syrup bottles). Well I saw the eye doc for the second time in six months and she said “it’s up to you”, whether or not to take this step, so I’m waiting. I’ve been trying to age graciously – and, given my health, gratefully – but this eye-sight thing has rattled me, I’m the first to admit. I’m only thirty-eight!

Well I hope you’re having a great holiday season and that 1998 brings health and happiness!

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