As Robb continued to survive with AIDS, and a virtually nonexistent immune system, there was a growing concern that his dog, Buddy, might pass along bacteria that could actually prove fatal.
He made the difficult decision to give Buddy to his sister, Martha. I always loved playing with Buddy when I visited. He considered my hand one of his favorite chew toys while I was there shooting an interview or something else happening in Robb’s life. So I went to Robb’s house for Buddy’s sendoff and we had a little fun even though it was a bit sad.
This is the type of experience with Robb that lifted me over the mental hurdle of homophobia. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I grew up in the South during the Fifties and Sixties, in a conservative Christian home, and I was raised with all the prejudices you might expect. We were not hateful in any way, but the culture was still insidious, with many friends and some family members disliking people who are different — non-Christians, minorities, gay people. Prejudice does not have to be wrapped in hatred to be effective.
By the time I became an adult, I had overcome a lot of the prejudices I learned growing up. But I still did not like homosexuals. That was my final hurdle.
Robb lifted me over that hurdle by just being himself. How could I visit his home and play with his dog and dislike him? How could I videotape him playing with Buddy and hate him for who he loved? This was not a sudden realization. It came over a period of months, during this year-long relationship, as I interviewed Robb, witnessed some of his life, joked with him, and laughed along with him as he made silly jokes during our stories.
Robb changed me because he was real. He was serious, he was funny, and he was brave. How could I deny him the same rights that I enjoyed?
The simple answer was that I could not. And this particular story was just one of the events that chipped away at me as I videotaped it and then sat in the editing room, watching the video over and over, deciding which shot to include and in what order, laughing over and over at Robb, and even feeling a little sad as he tells Buddy, “Don’t look sad,” at the end.
It’s easy to hate someone you don’t know. By now, I was really getting to know the first gay man I had ever really known. It was life-changing.
You can help keep Robb’s legacy alive by donating a few dollars to the DeLaCerda House, Robb’s favorite charity, providing shelter to homeless HIV and AIDS clients in the Quad Cities. Go to www.delacerdahouseinc.org and click on the “Donate” button on the right side of the screen.