Three Little Words: A New Chapter
"Three Little Words," which appeared in the Times in 1996, told the story of Jane Morse. She and her husband, Mick, seemed like a typical American family: Father, mother, three children.
They moved from country to country, where Mick built a career teaching at international schools, in Brazil and later in Spain.
Mick's health had been failing. Then one day in a Spanish hospital, he revealed to Jane three little words: "I have AIDS." Mick told Jane he got it from sex but refused to say whether it was with a man or a woman. Jane suspected that her marriage had been a lie, that Mick had been living a double life.
For two years, Mick insisted that Jane tell no one, not even their children. Jane kept up the charade, even as she went back time and again to be tested for HIV. Each test came out negative, but that did not dispel the fear or the burden of secrecy.
Finally the secret came out. Mick got sicker but refused help for fear of revealing his disease outside the family.
In frustration, Jane moved with the children to St. Petersburg. She took the first job she could get, as a receptionist in a doctor's office. Coincidentally, he treated patients with cancer and blood diseases, including several with AIDS.
When Mick visited the family in St. Petersburg early in 1993, he was 53 but looked 83, a ghost of a man. He was taken in by Jane's Aunt Joan and Uncle Ralph, who cared for him until his dying day, March 3, 1993.
One year later, Mick's wife and children celebrated his life and scattered his ashes off Pass-a-Grille Beach in the Gulf of Mexico.