Why I Walk
From the Aids Walk Foundation Orange County Newsletter
by Mark Fliegler
A few years ago I happened to be back in New Jersey at the same time as my high school class reunion. Since I had moved to California, I hadnít done a good job of keeping in touch with my old friends and classmates and I wasnít sure if I should bother to go. I knew with my receding hairline that I was unlikely to be recognized. But I was especially apprehensive as I thought to myself: what if no one remembers me.
I shouldnít have worried. Rich recognized me immediately. Ellen, my old flame, somewhat heavier and married to an orthodontist, gave me a big hug. I traded high fives with Dean. He was the pitcher, I was the catcher. And I saw Mrs. Bloom. I though she was old then, back in 11th grade English. But on this night, she looked much younger.
After the we talked and bragged and traded embellished stories of our happy, irresponsible high school days and of our accomplishments since graduation, stories of the hard times surfaced. Rich told us how his mother and father-in-law had been killed in an automobile accident while on vacation. Ellenís dad had Alzheimerís disease and it was taking a toll on the entire family.
I had nothing to say. My three boys are bright and healthy. My parents are still a fun part of our lives. I almost felt as if I should make-up a bad story just to be a participant.
Then it happened. Dean, the athlete who married Miss Maryland, the class clown, the partner in his law firm, told his story of losing his 8 year-old son, Jason, to AIDS. He and his wife lost their composure several times while explaining how he got bad blood, and what it was like to watch him become weaker and weaker.
We got past the bad stuff and talked again about the fun times. The night ended, very late and with lots of hugs and promises (unkept) to keep in touch.
On the plane ride home, Arlene, my wife, and I talked of how our perspective on life was somewhat naÔve. We needed to get involved in more than just our lives. Once we got home, we returned to our hectic and busy lives, not acting on our good intentions.
About a year later I had the opportunity through my business to work with marketing people at a local hospital. They mentioned AIDS WALK ORANGE COUNTY. Thatís when I made my commitment.
I never knew Jason. But since that reunion, and since I have been involved with AWOC, I look at my three boys differently. Every day.