I hate to bring down the mood here, but I have to talk about something that has been heavy on my mind for a few days now. My cousin Adam's best friend Kevin Porter died on Thursday. I say he was my cousin's friend because that is how I knew him, but I have hung out with him many times and he was my friend too. When he was a little kid, Kevin contracted HIV from a blood transfusion. He was a hemophiliac, and at that time in the 80s they did not screen blood well enough.
I first knew Kevin when I was a kid and Adam lived with us. He and Kevin were going to Stanton at the time and they would often be at my house after school and on the weekends, but we didn't really become friends until later when we had all grown up. I would be over at Kevin's house drinking, and for most of the time they would all forget that I was that same little brat who had been at Adam's aunt's house when they were kids, but occasionally they would remember and laugh at me. Kevin had a place in Orange Park, and Adam used to call me all the time and invite me over. Kevin was always generous with his friends; his house was often the spot for us to hang out and chill. Some of the first times I ever drank were with Kevin and Adam. I went over to his house for bonfires, parties, and just to chill and watch a movie or play Xbox. Kevin could pretty much kick my ass at Halo. I always felt welcome there, I never had to so much as step through the door before I was introduced to everyone and offered a beer and a seat. We all used to meet up in Daytona for Bike Week, and I have some great and funny memories of us bar hopping on US-1 and Main Street.
Throughout his life, Kevin had good times and bad times, when sometimes he would become ill and have to spend weeks at home or in the hospital. I always saw him on the good times, but even with that in mind it was amazing to me that he could be so positive and easy-going. I think most of the people who met him that were not a good friend of his probably had no idea that he was HIV positive. He was just a guy having a good time, and even though I knew he wasn't always in good shape it always seemed like he wasn't letting his condition slow him down.
I can't imagine what it would feel like to be told when you are a child that you have a fatal disease, and then to slowly come to the understanding of what that means as you grow old enough to actually comprehend it. I can't imagine what it feels like to live with a sort of death sentence hanging over your head. I did try to imagine myself in those shoes, but I had to stop. I don't want to know what that feels like. What I do know is that never, in all the times I saw him, did he seem depressed or fatalistic. It might be the best compliment that I can pay Kevin that most of the times I was hanging out with him, I completely forgot that there was anything wrong with him. It wasn't one of those things where "that's the guy with HIV" was always in the back of my mind and I felt sorry for him when I looked over his way. Him being sick just never crossed my mind.
I guess that is why it comes as kind of a shock that he died. The bad times were getting more and more frequent the older he got, and recently it just got too bad. He decided to check himself into hospice a couple weeks ago. When he was first diagnosed, the doctors did not expect him to live more than a few years. Living a somewhat normal life, or even living through his childhood at all, was a thought barely considered. I am guessing Kevin was just short of 30 when he died, and Adam says he got to do almost everything that he wanted to do before he died, and that when his friends and family got together it was more of a celebration of his life than a mourning of his death. My mom, who has been friends with the Porter family for a long time, said it was such a waste for something like that to happen to a boy like Kevin, and I agree with her. Rather than the circumstances of his life defining what he was, Kevin as a person seems totally distinct to me from the condition he had. I think he would have been the same person he always was had the unfortunate event never occurred, but there would not have been a limit on what he was capable of giving us.
I don't know how many of you knew Kevin, maybe some of the Daytona people or the Stanton teachers remember him. I just wanted to let everyone know that my thoughts are with Kevin and his family and friends, and especially my cousin Adam as he tries to deal with the death of his lifelong friend.