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Randal Rapp (1963 - 1994)

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In memory of Randal Rapp (1963 - 1994)

Although this is in memory to Randy, I must first preface his story by telling you how lucky and happy I have been, and how saddened by the way the wheel of life has turned. My luck was in loving and being loved by two men - Randy Rapp and Jim Pollnow. Each man, for nearly a decade each as my partner, brought joy into my life, pushed me to my potential, and gave me reason to live and enjoy life.

However, twice I have lost my heart and my love to AIDS. Reliving the loss of Randy, the situation, almost exactly fourteen years later, was eerily filled with coincidences when I lost Jim. Both men's illnesses started with a month-long fever; both died within 18 months of moving into a new home; both were born in July, and both passed away in May.

Randal Charles Rapp
July 9, 1963 - May 25, 1994
Always the rational, level-headed guy, I would never tell someone that I believe in love at first sight because so often it's just confusion between lust and love; but deep down in my heart, I do believe it can happen, because it happened to me!

Picture the scene, if you will. It's Christmas 1984, just two years since I quit going to a Christian college, just a year since I had come to grips with my sexuality. In a dance bar in Charlotte, NC, "Baby I'm a Star" by Prince is pumping through the speakers. There, caught it a spotlight was this handsome, hot guy, dancing just like Prince. That was the exact moment in which I fell in love with Randy. Within two weeks after our first date seeing the movie "Purple Rain", not only was he sleeping in my bed, but Randy had moved in my apartment (and heart) to stay.

Looking to open a pet store, Randy and I moved to his home state of Ohio, so his father could help finance our business. After living in Cleveland for two years, we finally found the perfect shop just 50 miles south, in Canton. Opening "It's Reigning Pets" (named after our cocker spaniel, Apollonia's Purple Reign - a play on the title of the Prince movie) in 1986, we did well with our shop (moved to a larger location and purchased a home) for nearly 5 years, until several large corporate pet stores moved into town, killing off all the locally-owned pet stores - including ours.

But those were some of the best years of our life together. Randy was a vibrant, headstrong, imaginative guy willing to give anything a try. My nature as a planner and facilitator was a perfect fit. Randy had an infectious zest for life and definitely opened up my quite, conservative, sheltered eyes to the wonders of the big wide world. Not only get he get me to move 600 miles after from everything I knew in life; but we water-skied, snow-skied, went white water rafting and hiking. We visited museums, cities and amusement parks. We ran a pet store and bred a line of cocker spaniels. Both of us being friendly, gregarious people, we always had an abundance of good times surrounded by hordes of friends. We were young (in our 20s) and life was good.

However, after a house fire and several burglaries, we moved several times, finally settling into a cute bungalow in April 1993. Unfortunately, we knew we might not stay there very long. The previous September, Randy had run a fever for nearly a month. Having already had a surgery for Chron's disease, he went to several docs, looking to see if that was the problem once again. No conclusions were reached until I received a positive result from an HIV test on Dec. 26, 1992. By the time we moved into our last house, the good times had ended and tragedy was coming up on us.

During that first year in the new home, Randy's health constantly declined. Between trips to the Cleveland Clinic, where Randy received meds through clinical trials, it seemed we were constantly fighting with Social Security to get Randy's disability approved. Randy's illness aggressively progressed, eventually pushing him out of any med trial as he was too sick. By Dec 1993, he was hospitalized for 9 days, receiving blood transfusions for the AZT-induced anemia, and pantamidine for the thrush that constantly filled his throat and mouth. It was horrible watching the man I loved suffering and, slowly but surely, wasting away.

Though it was a very hard year, it was a year I fondly remember. Due to an extension passed by President Clinton, I was able to receive a full year of unemployment and was able to spend every day of that final year with Randy. We both knew the inevitable was coming and any conflicts between the two of us melted away, leaving only our love behind. Unfortunately HIV medicines was limited in those days, and I made the difficult choice of going off treatment (AZT mono-therapy was filled with side effects and very harmful), so that I could provide Randy the proper level of care and comfort as he steadily grew sicker. Though sad memories, I can't help remembering the love in our touching one another as I literally picked him up and carried him to the car before a trip to the Cleveland courthouse, where his disability was finally approved.

I should mention the callowness of our doctor though. At Randy's final trip to the hospital for IV meds, the doctor spoke with me on the phone. Abruptly he told me that they wasn't anything else that could be done, did I want to admit Randy to the hospital or take him home to die? Yikes! I have had to make that decision about my pets before; but at only 30 yrs. ago I couldn't believe that I was having to decide how best to let my partner pass away. The decision was fairly easy though as I had already promised Randy, during his prior 9-day stay, that I would never let them keep him in the hospital again.

Hospice care hardly had time to even evaluate our situation, when 9 days later on May 25, 1994 at 5:55am, Randy passed away on a hospital bed set up in our living room, surrounded by our cocker spaniels, friends, and family. His mom, an LPN, pronounced him dead after he uttered his last words to me, "Love you". I never knew life could be so dark until Randy's vibrant light of life was extinguished. Upon his death, those words we had used so casually to describe one another as the "other half" suddenly took on a whole new meaning, as I was left behind as only "half" of a whole person. The wounds from his loss have never left me, though the pain has lessened through the years.

Randy himself was a cheerful, outgoing, energetic, opinionated, imaginative young man ready to challenge the world, give anything a try and make a new friend of anyone he met. For almost a decade, Randy brought fun, excitement, and adventure into my life. He gave me love, comfort, compassion and passion. He opened my eyes showing me the world and changed me, making me into a better man.

Right after losing Randy, I came across a summary of a quote by St. Augustine concerning the death of a beloved friend. After Jim's death, almost exactly 14 years later, I finally found the original quotation (below). Though St Augustine wasn't talking about the death of a partner, his words most eloquently convey the depth the loss I feel in my life. The words are even more poignant to me now that I've lost my two partners. In my struggle to continue my own life without them, I too hold onto the belief that they live on because I live on and hold them in my heart. Sadly and unfortunately though, I must only be a "quarter of a soul" by now.

For I marvelled that other mortal men should be alive,
since he whom I had loved, as if he should never die, was dead;
and I marvelled the more that I, since I was but his other self,
should be alive when he was dead.

Well hath one said of his friend, "Thou half of my soul"
for I felt that my soul and his soul were "one soul in two bodies"
and therefore was my life a horror to me,
because I loathed that only half of me should be alive:
and hence perchance I feared to die, lest he should wholly die,
whom I had loved much.

"The Confessions of St Augustine", Book Four Chapter 6

Please make sure to also read the memorial thread
that I dedicated to my second long-term partner, Jim Pollnow.

I was chatting away today, to a person I had just met, about my past and all the good times I had with my first partner Randy (the pet store, living in Cleveland, the start of our family of dogs, our haunted house). This was the fourth time in the last week, that I had met someone else who used to be from Ohio and with whom I chatted about my past. Then my eye glanced at the date on a piece of paper, and while you'd think the sad memories would have faded after 17 yrs, every detail, every image of that night came flooding back.

Boy, will I be glad when May is over. While I'm glad to be able to share stories about my life with my men because it keeps the memories alive of two people that this damned virus has stolen, and it helps teach valuable lessons about getting tested and treated; beginning and ending the month by dealing with the loss of my partners makes my head - and my heart - hurt.  :'(

I still love and miss you, Randy.  :-*

Gone from this world 20 yrs
yet never gone from my heart  :-*

and 6 yrs since I left Jim's ashes with Randy there at the grave in OH  :'(


I read your memorial to Jim before I read this one for Randy, your St. Augustine quote really rang true, and I told it to my mother the exact day my dad passed.  Your writing is eloquent and both men were honored to be remembered by you in this forum.

All my best,

well, another May has come and about gone, and you've been gone 22 years. How in the world can it have been that long?! It's hard to believe that it's been 9 years too since Jim died. I talk to Larry often about the two of you because his traits frequently remind me of you. Larry certainly has your sense of humor and determination - and he loves riding the roller coasters with me.

While it has been a long two decades since you went away, I still love you and I miss you every day.


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