Losing a friend to AIDS

When I was in High School, Forest HillsHigh School, Queens, New York, I was in the chorus.  I had sung for most of my life, always been in school choruses, All-City Chorus, just a singer from when I started in my crib, or so my mother always told me.  But I was shy.  I didn’t care much for solos, just wanted to be part of the group.

 

But then came along my chorus teacher and cajoled me into doing the soprano solo at the Christmas Show for Cantique De Noel (O Holy Night).  I was scared out of my life, but against my better judgment, I agreed.  I was to sing with three others: an alto, a tenor and a bass.  Rehearsals were torture, but I had an excellent pianist to accompany me.  Keith Avedon.  (Many years later I was to learn that Keith was the nephew of the well known photographer for Vogue Magazine until he died, some years ago.

 

Keith and I would walk home from school together.  Keith had a limp and was self-conscious about it.  Back then, he didn’t have many friends and our friendship became dear to me.

 

And so, I did the solo, shaking and trembling all the way but Keith got me through it.

 

Then, years later, I tried to get in touch with him; I had learned about Richard Avedon being his Uncle.  I called Richard Avedon’s studio and found out that Keith had died from AIDS.  I was broken-hearted and tried to get as much information as I could about it.  Avedon turned me on to a book that Keith’s wife had written; her name was Elizabeth Avedon, or Betsey as she was known by.  I called her and we spoke about Keith and how much he had helped me get through my torturous solo and how he had always been in my thoughts.  We had, for a short time, been very close.

 

I got a hold of her book and found out how Keith had contracted AIDS; I believe it was a transfusion(but don’t hold me to that) and cried through it and especially the end of the book.  It took me a good deal of time to get over how I lost my friend and why hadn’t I tried to get in touch with him before.  Lesson learned.  If you’re tight with someone and feel a sudden urge to get in touch with them, DO IT don’t wait.

 

Below is the tribute poem I wrote for Keith and forwarded to his family.

 

Ode to Keith

 

Snow Angel,

Arms flailing wildly,

Struggling in the night,

To be free

Of IV lines and drips.

 

Snow angel,

Wings flapping noisily,

Internally,

Mentally,

Tricked into believing

You can never really escape

The ever-tightening net

Of AIDS

Strangling not only you,

But Betsey and Luke,

Everone.

 

Snow Angel,

Leaving behind

A questionable legacy

Which no one will talk about

Or lay open claim to,

For fear of public reprisal

And unearned penalties.

 

Snow Angel

Play your music

For Him now,

Like you did for me

Many years ago

When I was afraid

Of stepping

 

Into the unknown.

 

Dedicated to my good friend Keith Avedon

4 responses to “Losing a friend to AIDS

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