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Common Bonds | Joan Augusthorizontal rule

photo of joan august

Joan August is currently caring for her son Bo, who has AIDS. When he was diagnosed five years ago, she had to deal with the shock of the revelation. She decided the only way they were going to make it was for them to focus on the living. Joan was divorced from her husband, but he moved back in with her to help care for Bo.

On Caring for Her Son Bo
The first conversation I had with the doctor on the phone, she said you know people think that just because you have AIDS you just waste away and die, and that's not true. There are lots of things that we can do to help someone with AIDS, and we treat it more like a chronic disease. As soon as I heard that I knew that there was not only support but also there was possibility and that became part of my resource for strength. There are times when I'm watching his struggle, I see slides of him as a baby in front of me. It's just like slides going across my eyes of just nursing this beautiful round healthy baby, and then times when he bounds in the house with his baseball cap on backwards and says hey, Ma, guess what happened. And now I'm watching him paste himself together and wanting so much to stay alive and doing it, but on those days it's hard, no matter how many resources you have, and it hurts.

On Learning of Her Son's Illness
It was a beautiful spring day in March and Bo had said that he had wanted to talk to me and his dad, and that was really unlike him to make an appointment with his father and me. We'd been separated and although we all talk to each other, Bo didn't make an appointment with each of us. I knew he had been to the doctor because he had had a sore throat and it wasn't going away. But that appointment that he made with us and the connection with the doctor, frightened me. But I didn't know, there was nothing in Bo's lifestyle, nothing about him that would make me believe this could ever, ever happen.

On Facing Mortality
It must be that, as a society we don't deal that well with illness. I know for me, the first time I went into this room where my friend's mother was dying and they asked to just spend the night with her, to be with her mother and they didn't expect her mom to die. I just had this very strong sense she was going to die, I thought, and I was terrified, just absolutely terrified. I thought, I can't do this. I don't know anything about this. Of course, the experience was extraordinary because I walked into that house and there was an overwhelming sense of peace inside of me which I don't know where it came from. I choose to call it the grace of God, but it was something much more mystical, mysterious than I could name. Because it didn't feel like my peace, it felt like something given to me. All I could think of to do was to be present to her.

On Hope and Healing
Bo knows how to do that. I don't know how to do it as well as he does. I'll look at him and he'll say, oh, I want to go back to the reunion, because our family has a big reunion in July. I didn't say this to him but I'd look at him and I'd think he can't get on that plane and fly to New York and I don't think we're going to be able to do it, but I'll go along with this. We've gone to New York two summers now and he's planning to go this summer and he's gone on other little trips. He makes plans and he's well for it, and he knows how to get his energy together. So it's pretty extraordinary to me.

Next: Jim Locke

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