Having to tell you I was HIV positive was not an easy thing to do, but it was impossible to hide anything from you, even if I wanted to.
Openness in our family had been a very long battle, but we had generally succeeded in getting rid of the secrecy that infected many families.
This battle would be no different, but the age difference between you, Annie and then Kayla raised its head again, we all agreed this revelation had to be managed carefully.
You were living with me at the time, it was a painful dinner when I had to confess my shame at the diagnosis.
You questioned me about many aspects; how did it happen? what are the prospects? What treatment is available?
I could not tell you how it had happened, I honestly did not know. My best guess is a blood to blood infection when I was trying to be a good Samaritan, but that may be a cop out.
Whatever; it didn’t really matter, somehow, somewhere I had been stupid bringing me to this reality.
We had all been through the hopeless saga of Steve’s demise, I tried to reassure you about how much prospects had improved in the past ten years, for people with a HIV diagnosis.
I told you blithely about the Combination Drug Therapy, John E had suggested, without having any real idea of what this therapy involved.
As usual, you took charge, demanding we walk every morning and I was not to be allowed to sink into self-absorption and pity.
I started on the regime of twenty-three Horse pills morning and night. These were big ugly tablets, full of poison.
Their effect on me was worse than I could ever have expected.
I would take them in the morning and then spend the next hour cramped over the toilet, as my body tried to rid itself of this toxic mixture.
The same happened in the evening, I hated the sight of those fucking bottles!
Without you by my side, I have no doubt I would have shirked the taking of these vials of poison, but you were unrelenting.
We developed a routine; I would get up around 2.00 am to take the morning dose, spend the next hour retching and resisting and then go back to bed for another three hours sleep.
We would be up between 5.30 am and 6.00 am, to set off on our morning walk. I would resist but you would be adamant. We would walk across Prince Alfred Park, through Surry Hills and Darlinghurst and then do a lap of the Domain, gradually I would start to feel normal.
We would then both go off to work for the day around 8.30 am. I still had Kayla at Private School, I still had to pay the rent, there was no nest egg; I had no choice and you made certain I knew this.
I would take the evening pills around 4.00 pm, spent the next hour retching and vomiting before heading out for my evening Open Houses or appointments.
This would be my life for the next two years and you were by my side for the whole time. I can never thank you enough for your efforts and encouragement; if I can use that word loosely?
Now almost twenty years later; Billy and I often chuckle at “Tiger Mum Jassie”; he was not around when you were “Tiger Daughter”, maybe; that was your apprenticeship?
I would never have had it any other way and; I am damn certain, neither would your kids.
Tough love, indeed.