ents. Her father, brother, and sister are all physicians. What’s kept us together through the years are the shared values, clearly inculcated by my Italian mother and her Jewish mother, of commitment to and primacy of family.
In retrospect, the AIDS epidemic was, in Janet’s eyes, more of a threat to our relationship than infidelity. Remember, in the early 1980s we still didn’t know very much about the disease. What if I died and left her children fatherless, or what if I somehow passed it on to her? More importantly, she probably felt she was losing me to my work. AIDS, in effect, became the “other woman.” In truth, the epidemic was consuming large chunks of my life. I was becoming a workaholic, with an 80-hour workweek and two to three hours nightly on homework, writing grants and articles. To me it was a question of balancing two commitments—one to my family and one to my profession. To Janet’s way of thinking, there could only be one commitment—to our family.
Our children, Adrienne and Suzanne, of course, took all of this in. Fortunately, I was aware enough of what was happening to somehow time manage my life. I made a commitment to be there for my children. Our daughters, in turn, were always wiser than their years. Not only did they understand their parents’ differences, they somehow managed to synthesize the best of both of us. In fact, if the AIDS epidemic drove a wedge between my wife and me, it also forged a bond between me and my daughters. It opened their eyes to responsibilities beyond family.
My older daughter, Adrienne, was 7 in 1983. Before the acronym AIDS had been coined, we had been calling her “Aids” as an affectionate abbreviation. One day she came to us and said she didn’t want to be called “Aids” anymore. She had seen on the television that it was a horrible disease and people were dying from it, and she didn’t want it as a nickname any longer.