All Randi Weber Wants Is Her Own Home to Die In

The springtime of her life is long since gone. Summer, too, for that matter. The only mystery left for Randi Weber is whether, at 42, winter is now upon her prematurely.

It's not that she's afraid of dying; she came to grips long ago with the fact that AIDS would eventually kill her. No, the final question of her life isn't whether she'll die young, but where. Will it be in the safe haven of her San Clemente home of the past 14 years, surrounded by friends and two poodles and a Chihuahua, or in some place as yet unknown to her?

"I want to die here," she says. "I have no problem saying that."

But there's something else on her mind that she wants to ask me. Frankly, it's the reason she has invited me to her home. She jokes that she "dressed up" in a new red sweat suit she just got for her birthday. Before we get to what she really wants to ask, I ask her about her recent life.

She had her first seizure in 1982. She had her second in 1983. That time, a growth showed up in her brain, and it proved to be a malignant tumor. She had brain surgery and a blood transfusion in an Army medical hospital outside Denver. The surgery was successful; the transfusion was not. The blood supply was tainted, and in 1986 Weber, who had been a nurse, was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS.

Shortly after that, her husband, a career Marine, served her with divorce papers and moved out. The divorce wasn't final until 1991. One of the terms was that when her ex-husband retired from the Corps, their house would be sold so he could receive his legal share of the asset.

Randi Weber chuckles as she recalls why the divorce took a few years to be finalized: Nobody figured she would live very long.

But it's now 1994 and her ex-husband, now living in Virginia, recently retired after a 20-year career. He wants his share of the house, a sum of money Randi Weber can't beg, borrow or steal. So, she has put the house up for sale and has a pending offer.

To her friends, it seems like the ultimate cruelty: her husband divorced her and now is legally entitled to force the sale of the home. Should Randi die before it's sold, he would own it outright.

There's another whammy. If the house sells, Randi will clear enough money to disqualify her from certain medical benefits she depends on--such as a live-in caretaker--but not enough to re-establish herself comfortably.

In a sense, that's all extraneous. The simple fact is that she doesn't want to move, even if she had the physical strength to do so.

Is there an answer to all this? I ask her. "The answer is--and this is hard for me to do," she says. "I've never done this before in my life. I'm asking for your help to see if people will help me. Does that sound awful? This is my humbling experience. I've never done this, and it's very hard for me to ask for help like this, but it's my only option."

Based on the current value of the house, Randi's attorney, Cisca Stellhorn, says $50,000 to $60,000 would buy out her ex-husband. Stellhorn says if someone were to lend Randi the money, for example, it could be secured against the property.

"To him (her ex-husband), this is an investment and a house," Randi says. "To me, this is home and security. This is where my support is."

Ideally, she says, buying out her ex-husband would enable her to leave the house to her caretaker and her 20-year-old daughter.

You might wonder, as I did, why her ex-husband can't stretch things out a bit longer. I presume he has his reasons. I telephoned him in Virginia to ask about those reasons but was unable to contact him.

In the meantime, Randi Weber is in the countdown mode. "Fifty-four days," she says. Fifty-four days to come up with the money or the offer on the table must be accepted.

Saving her house won't save her life. "It's not going to give me an immune system," she says. "It's a matter of time, I know this. I know it's a matter of time until one of the opportunistic infections hits me."

So, no, the money won't save her life. I told her it was a long shot, at best, that anyone would come up with that much money.

After I left, I thought about Randi Weber's last dozen years. . . . Brain tumor. Tainted blood supplied by the government. A husband who left her after she got sick. Watching herself slowly succumb to AIDS.

It struck me as near-pathetic that she felt embarrassed asking for money from people she doesn't know.

A cruel world? Sometimes it's hard not to think so.

A fund has been set up: Randi's House Rescue, in care of Mariners Bank in San Clemente.


UPDATE: Anaheim Union High School officials have lifted the suspension of Rick Roseli, a Western High School senior who was the subject of this column Wednesday. Roseli returned to school Friday and will be allowed to graduate with his class.

Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

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