Sunday, January 10, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Help Offered For Aids Mom -- Story Brings Hope, Fears As Family Is Sought For Son

New York Daily News

NEW YORK - Late at night, with her son sleeping, Rosemary Holmstrom gently closed the double doors between her room and his and turned on the television as a distraction.

She dumped an envelope filled with hundreds of letters on her bed and began the journey that she both fears and desperately wants.

Holmstrom, a Brooklyn woman dying of AIDS, is searching for a home for her 8-year-old son, C.J. She read the words she hopes will give him a future:

"My heart goes out to you. . . ." "We have been wanting to adopt a child. . . ." "There is so much to be grateful for, but loving and caring for a child would be the ultimate." Two weeks ago, Holmstrom, 34, told her story to the New York Daily News; the story appeared in a number of newspapers around the country.

HIV-positive since 1986, Holmstrom is growing weaker from AIDS and is racing to find a home for C.J. before she dies.

Estranged from her family and wary of the foster-care system, Holmstrom has launched the search on her own, looking for special people who will love the boy as much as she and wait until she is ready to give him up.

Holmstrom has also put another condition on who she will choose to adopt her son:

She wants to get to know them and them to know her "so they can pass on who I am to my son."

Hundreds of people have responded with poignant letters.

Many are filled with revealing details from people intent on impressing Holmstrom with their openness. Several letters are accompanied by family snapshots.

"They made me very hopeful and very sad," said Holmstrom. "I didn't feel alone anymore."

She added softly, "It made it real."

Going public with her search for a family for her son has been "overwhelming" and "exhausting," she said. Holmstrom's phone rings almost nonstop with offers to appear on television shows. Federal Express packages arrive in the mail. Friends check in constantly.

But not everyone has been kind. Because of the publicity, C.J. has been teased and shunned at school by other children.

A friend told her that another woman in the neighborhood planned to have her son tested because "`my boy used to play with C.J., and what about blood?' "

"Doesn't anyone listen?," said a distraught Holmstrom. "C.J. doesn't have AIDS." The boy has tested HIV-negative four times.

"One of his friends told me that a kid in C.J.'s class told everybody, `Don't go near C.J. His mother has AIDS and you'll get it too.' I felt so helpless. He wouldn't let me hug him. He looked so lost.

"He won't talk much about it except to say, `See what you did. You shouldn't have done the story. All because of you.'

"I told him, `I have to stand up for what I believe. If I don't do this, what's going to happen to you?'

"I tried to tell him that you can't always be on the good side, that there will be people who are ignorant," she said. "It's a terrible way to learn about life."

But mother and son have yet to confront what Holmstrom calls "the initial issue of my going" - her death.

Concerned about the effect on C.J. of what has been happening, Holmstrom began the selection process in secret.

"I hid the letters from him," she said. "After he went to sleep, I took them out. It was like a big secret. I put the TV on as a distractor."

She and a friend began sorting through the letters. "We looked at the pictures. I was impressed by the pictures. I get to see what people look like. It seemed honest and sincere."

Still, she is overwhelmed by what she is doing, and what happens next is murky. She said she must "categorize the letters - I have to find some way to sort them out: single parents, couples, gay, straight."

She said friends have offered to help sort through the letters, which continue to come to a Staten Island post office box.

"What am I looking for?," she asks. "The illusion of the white picket fence, the two-car garage.

"But that's not real. It wouldn't be what it seems. We all grew up wanting that, didn't we?"

How to help: Anyone wishing to contact Rosemary Holmstrom can write to her at P.O. Box 677, Staten Island, N.Y., 10304.

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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