Today I celebrate five years since my return to New York. To think, five years ago to the day I was sitting in a holding cell in police headquarters in Seoul, having been informed the day before that I was HIV+; then handcuffed; then driven to the airport; then begging the immigration official to remove my handcuffs before he escorted me onto the airplane. What an endless New Year's Day that was. I was put on the plane early in the morning and then I crossed the International Date Line, so it was still the morning of January 1, 2004 when my plane touched down in New York. What memories.
Last night, New Year's Eve, I sat in a chair in a hospital with Dad. Old episodes of Law and Order were on. The really old ones. My favorite ones. The ones starring Sam Waterston as the District Attorney. I loved his character. New Year's came and went very quietly. Literally.
This morning my mind reflexively started to contemplate the possibilities of new beginnings. Clean beginnings. Such is the extent to which Western minds have been brainwashed into thinking certain things on certain dates. Well, this year started with no clean beginnings. This year started with me collecting my father's feces sample for the nurse. Normally she would have done it, but since I was there, would I mind so terribly doing it for her? As I sat there in the bathroom doing what I needed to do with the sample specimens, I burst out laughing. Thinking about all the times my parents said they changed my smelly diapers. How they didn't mind since it was their own child, their own flesh and blood. I can't say I felt the same exact emotions (I don't think children love their parents in the way that parents love their children), but it was not such a terrible ordeal. Just the realization that on certain days, we all literally deal with shit.
And contemplate assisted suicide. I never really understood what that was all about. Why the infamous Dr. Kevorkian went to jail to defend his practice of assisting terminally ill patients end their lives. After two weeks of visiting the geriatric ward, I got a very unpleasant glimpse into the future. I think growing old is not a pleasant prospect. I think the physical pains do not compare to growing irrelevant. The humiliation. The degradation. I know that the nurses on the floor are tired and overworked, but I did not see a whole lot of love or sympathy for these old people in their care, some of whom never had visitors. As I get older, I can see myself turning more and more into my mother and father. God willing, I will get to end up old and gray in a hospital bed. I just won't have any son sitting by my side. Watching old episodes of Law and Order. Taking care of me. The greatest problems of this world have no technological solutions. No one will ever patent a machine that can mend a broken heart.