One Family’s AIDS, by J’son M. Lee, is the story of Gene Alexander McCoy—a young, educated African-American man who finds himself in a race for time to make peace with his family and God upon being diagnosed with HIV. The short story, told from four different perspectives, chronicles Gene’s life as he confronts such issues as HIV/AIDS, family, abandonment and homophobia. With the help of his over-bearing mother, a nurturing grandmother, and an uncle who doesn’t feel comfortable talking about Gene’s sexuality or disease, we learn the complexities of love and relationships, the damaging results of fear and shame, and how the relentless quest for the truth ultimately leads us back to each other.
One Family’s AIDS is based on the stage play of the same name. Readers fell in love with Grandma Annie Mae McCoy’s first person account of her experiences with the disease:
Annie Mae McCoy – He is Er’rythang To Me (excerpted from One Family’s AIDS)
I raised Gene since he was four years old. My oldest son, William, brought Gene home to live with me after my daughter got messed up on that stuff. I’m not really surprised how Ruthie turned out. She was always a little hot in the tail. She ran away after she got pregnant with Gene. I’ve always taught my ‘churen that you can never run from your troubles. I guess she missed that lesson. A hard head always makes a soft behind.
I fell in love with Gene when he smiled and I saw those dimples. I knew he was “special” early on. Let me tell you this funny story. When he was growing up Gene loved…Lord, what’s her name? Little skinny gal…wit all the hair…sang wit the Supremes…Oh yes, Diana Ross! I reckon he was about five or so. He snook up in my room and had put on some of my makeup and slipped on a pair of my heels. I stood back and watched him. He didn’t know I was watching. Chile he was putting on a show in the mirror singing, “Stop! In The Name Of Love.” He was singing his little heart out like he was Diana Ross. I never said a word. He was always a little performer.
Gene kept to himself a lot when he was growing up. The other kids tormented him so much…just ’cause he was a little different. You see, Gene wasn’t rough like the other boys. He pretty much stayed up under me. I didn’t mind. He was such a sweet boy. Gene also had a lil’ twist in his walk. I guess he got that from his momma. She had a walk you wouldn’t believe. Chile, drove the boys crazy! She knew it, too. Gene’s walk kinda’ reminded me of that. Po’ thang, he couldn’t help it. He was knock-kneed and pigeon-toed like his momma…so when he would walk away from me, I would say, “Lord, ‘ha mercy”.
After he went off to college he started opening up to me more about what he was going through. I guess it was all that education. He started using these big saditty words. I had to say, “Wait baby…break it down so grandmamma can understand.” That’s when he told me about his lifestyle…that he liked mens. I said, “Baby, I knew dat…tell grandmamma something she don’t already know.” Mothers always know. Nothin’ could change my love for my baby. All I’ve ever wanted is for him to be happy…and if this made him happy, so be it. Who cares if he loves different?
My baby now has da AIDS…I really didn’t know what da AIDS was ’til my Gene got it. All I know is that he was real sick all the time…so when I asked him ’bout it, he told me he had da AIDS. I’ve learned a lot about da AIDS; as much as an old lady like me can learn. I’m not afraid of hugging or kissing my son. But I don’t take any chances. Gene makes sho’ of that. I remember one time I was shaving him and nicked his face. I reached for a Kleenex to dab the blood and he shouted, “Annie Mae, (that’s what he calls me when he’s mad) I’ll do that. Don’t ever touch my blood!”
It’s hard watching your child die. I watch him when he’s asleep just like I used to do when he was a little boy and he looks the same. It’s not until he opens his eyes that reality hits me in the face. His eyes look sunken and sometimes they seem so distant. In the hospital he began to talk out his head. I think it was all that medication. When I walked in his room I said, “Hey there…how’s my favorite son?” He said, “I’m fine…Niecey just left.” “Was it a nice visit?” I asked. “Yes mam”, he said. Niecey was this little girl he used to play with who lived next door when he was a little boy. We ain’t heard from that girl in over 15 years. Then one time he was talkin’ ’bout he had to change his clothes so that he could go and milk the cow. He kept telling me to hand him the pail that was lying on the flo’. Although I didn’t see it, I pretended I did cuz when I didn’t see what he saw, he got so frustrated. The funny thang was ‘dat boy didn’t know nothing ’bout milkin’ no cows. He ain’t never milked a cow a day in his life! He was always too “nice” for that. He didn’t work in the field and didn’t believe in getting dirty. He said he wasn’t getting black as a boot and doin’ all dat sweatin’. Like I said, he was too “nice” for all that.
I could talk for three days and all you would hear are words upon words…none of which would make any difference. They won’t help my Gene. They won’t stop him from suffering…from dying…and from me having to watch him die. Sometimes he just seems so helpless. But it’s all in God’s hand now. I love all my ‘churen. I always thought they would suffer my death. I always thought I’d be gone first. Looks like I’m gone be wrong….
J’son M. Lee, though born in Brooklyn, New York, is essentially a North Carolinian. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill earning a degree in Speech Communication with a concentration in Performance Studies. Lee is 43 years old and resides in Baltimore, Maryland. He is also the author of Just Tryin’ To Be Loved, the “Friends or Lovers” short story series (Best Friends, More Than Friends and Can’t Be Friends), love One (short story), One Family’s AIDS (short story) and co-author of the multiple award winning title, How could my husband be GAY?, with Ondrea L. Davis. J’son was recently named 2013 Author of the Year by SGL BOOKLOVERS magazine.
Contact Information For additional information or interview requests, contact J’son M. Lee – 888.688.4250 or firstname.lastname@example.org