Robb’s Life Chapter 46 – A Tribute to Hattie Dussliere

The last time I visited Robb before he passed away, he was sleeping and his mom, Hattie, was watching over him. As his body shut down, Robb slept more.

A week or so earlier, I had interviewed Robb for the last time, because it was obvious that he could go at any time, an observation that he made, too. During the interview, I asked him to talk about his mom.

Having lost a child 16 years earlier, I had an idea of the pain Hattie and Lorney were experiencing, but my daughter died at only 6 weeks old. I can’t imagine how I would have recovered if 34 years of memories were in my head.

This is the story that aired on April 15, 1996 — a tribute to a wonderful mom, looking at her dying son through the eyes of love.

Robb’s Life Chapter 39 -A CT Scan and Suspicions of Wasting Syndrome

Robb CT 3-4-96-2

Robb suspects wasting syndrome, but gets a CT scan to rule out Kaposi’s.

In early March, 1996, Robb suspected he had wasting syndrome, which happens when the body begins shutting down. But to rule out Kaposi’s Sarcoma, a type of cancer that is common in AIDS patients, he went to Genesis Medical Center for a CT scan.

Robb had been having trouble breathing, especially while lying down. He looked very thin and was continuing to lose weight, but he maintained a realistic perspective. He wanted to know exactly what was happening, staring good and bad news in the eye without blinking. He knew so much about AIDS that he seemed to view his own illness in a clinical way.

As the end approached, Robb was teaching me about courage in a way that I may not have thought deeply about at the time, but as the years have passed, I have been amazed at how calm and centered he remained through it all.

If you would like to keep Robb’s legacy alive and support men and women who are homeless while fighting HIV and AIDS, please go to the DeLaCerda House’s website — at www.delacerdahouseinc.org — and click the Donate button.

Robb’s Life Chapter 31 – A Special Delivery for Christmas

Headstone-4

“This (photo) is what I’m sending for Christmas presents,” Robb jokes.

Just in time for Christmas in 1995, a major item was checked off Robb’s To-Do-List. The headstone that he and his parents designed was delivered by Moline Monument to St. Mary’s Cemetery in East Moline.

You may remember that in May, Robb and his parents — Lorney and Hattie — chose their grave site during a tour of the cemetery. Now, the project was complete!

It isn’t easy for three people to decide on the design of a headstone, which will identify them for perhaps hundreds of years, or until the stone is worn down by time. This story shows the final steps in the design process, then Robb, Lorney and Hattie are at the cemetery as the headstone is delivered and installed.

Headstone-Robb-Lorney-Hattie

Robb, Lorney, and Hattie watch as the headstone is installed.

None of us knew, of course, that Robb only had four months to live. He may have suspected this would be his last Christmas, but he had suspected it the previous year, too. And he had recently signed up for a new drug trial, so anything could happen.

I think back to this time, and I┬ádon’t believe I gave him a Christmas gift that year. Perhaps I was still trying to keep a bit of professional distance, being a reporter, but I regret it now. If I could do it again, I would have made a big deal of it. Once someone is gone, however, there are no do-overs. Insert deep sigh here.

For 20 years, I have cracked up over Robb’s joke at the end of this story, and how Lorney reacts to it. Even in the middle of a profound, potentially depressing event, Robb could lighten the mood.

Robb’s Life Chapter 21 — Checking a Headstone Off the To-Do List

On September 13, 1995, this episode of Robb’s Life aired on WHBF-TV. Robb had been very sick the week before, and he and his parents, Lorney and Hattie Dussliere, realized they needed to select a headstone for their grave and check that item off the to-do list.

Robb barely smiled during this video shoot at Moline Monument, although you can hear him laugh during his first comment about the three of them agreeing “quickly for a change.” It was obvious he was not feeling well.

Help keep Robb’s legacy alive! Donate to the DeLaCerda House and help provide shelter and support for homeless HIV and AIDS clients. Go to www.delacerdahouseinc.org and click on the “Donate” button on the right side of the page.

Robb’s Life Chapter 10 – Choosing a Grave Site

Robb Cemetery3The first time I had a chance to talk very much with Robb’s parents was the day he went with them to select a grave site at St. Mary’s in East Moline.

This is one of my favorite pieces in the series. The tone and structure of the stories began coming together in this one. Real life is made up of serious moments that are sometimes punctuated with humor, and humor can quickly give way to sadness. Robb was a very funny, mischevious guy, but just below the surface, the people around him are beginning to feel the heartbreak of what is coming in the not-so-distant future. I felt that this story brought these different emotions together, and it became a template for the stories to come.

Also, by the time we shot this story, near the end of May, 1995, Robb and I were more at ease around each other.

I had met Lorney (Lawrence) and Hattie Dussliere a few weeks earlier at Robb’s house, but we didn’t talk much that day. Now, as we toured the cemetery, I had a chance to interview them for the first time. They are wonderful people.


 
Please donate to the DeLaCerda House and keep Robb’s mission alive, helping HIV and AIDS patients who find themselves homeless. Follow this link and click on the Donate button on the right side of the page.