Introduction

Imagine riding on a train that could take you anywhere you wanted to go. Crossing beaches, oceans, flying above the tops of trees, even going back to another period in time, this train could go anywhere. The journey I am about to take you on is more fantastic, and I could not make it up if I tried. It is a true journey; it is the story of my family and me. I am a fairly successful architect, happily married with three teenage daughters, 18, 16, and 13. Relive with me the last four years of my life during which I sank to suicidal levels. Afterwards, you will understand why, despite my life-threatening illness, I would not trade places with anyone in the world.

At age forty-four I became HIV positive from having unprotected sex with an HIV positive man. August 4, 1997 was the worst day of my life, as that was the day I found out I was HIV positive, and I had to tell my wife I was both bisexual and HIV positive. I wrote Jodi, my wife, a poem, one of many I had recently written. As I gave Jodi the poem, I realized this might be the last bit of happiness she would ever receive from me. In my mind there were three choices which I subsequently related to Jodi:

  1. She could divorce me and have everything. There was nothing I wanted. I would continue to support my family and live as frugally as possible. I’d take a small studio in New York and sell my car.
  2. I would kill myself for hurting Jodi and bringing so much shame to my family. I don’t know if I could have really done this since I have children. However, given my state of mind and my love for Jodi, I cannot say how this would have played out.
  3. We would continue living together as a married couple and try to deal with the hurt and suffering I was causing.

I also told Jodi if she did not want me to come home that night because she needed time to sort things out, I understood.

Jodi never once wavered and we have been together ever since. Jodi understands that I am bisexual, and occasionally I am with men. Jodi and I do continue to have sex, although we use condoms so that she will not become infected with the AIDS virus.

My health is excellent. I exercise and work out at a gym, don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, don’t drink except for a glass or two of wine a week, eat right, and have an excellent support system consisting of my wife and three daughters. I’m so healthy and strong, I run the New York City Marathon every year, and it’s possible that my wife and I have the fastest combined times for our age group. Would it surprise you to learn that my fastest time was 3 hours 23 minutes, and that this was accomplished after being diagnosed HIV positive? The main theme of the book is: Let’s get the medicine out to HIV positive people and encourage these people to live a healthy lifestyle. If you have a dream, make it happen and don’t let anyone keep you down. Keep your spirit flying and you can beat this illness. People, business, and government must unite and contribute towards finding a vaccine and a cure. People must speak out and say they are gay, bisexual or HIV positive, and not feel ashamed of who they are. All voices must be heard.
We owe it to the 22,000,000 souls who have died from AIDS. They cannot speak, but their voices will be heard forever unless we forget them and the meaning of life. And what about those poor souls who are living and keeping all their secrets clogged up in their brain? Chances are, if you revealed your darkest secret to four people at a table, more than likely someone at the table would have a darker tale. Try eliminating whatever secrets you are hiding, and I guarantee you will be relieving yourself of a tremendous amount of stress. I believe stress is the #1 killer in this country, and that’s just not how I am going to go. There are few people in this world who can say there is justice in this world with respect to their family. I can. There is no one out there with whom I would like to trade places. My family loves me, and for that I love them a little more than the average father. I am well aware that the majority of families would have thrown me out, but maybe my wife and I showered so much love and affection on each other and the children over the years, that my story is the exception. Trust your wife, make her your best friend before it’s too late, and together as a family you can get through anything. The worst mistake I ever made was not trusting Jodi and exposing her to my life-threatening illness. Any of my other flaws pale by comparison, and I will never forgive myself for not trusting Jodi.

I am not a religious person, but I have come to the realization that maybe God gave me this illness for a reason and maybe my purpose in life is to make a difference. The Jewish people did a great job in not letting the world forget that 6,000,000 Jews died during the Holocaust. I now pose the question: How will the 22nd century view us when the final count comes in at 50 million to 100 million dead from AIDS? Surely we will be called the darkest age. I can’t accept these statistics. It is my hope that this book will contribute to diminishing these numbers. If I cause any pain and suffering to my family, as I am sure there will be people who disapprove of my lifestyle and book, then I apologize to my family. My family has been behind me and there is only one person who can stop my story from being told. I am Jewish, and believe it or not, it is not my mother, although she is not aware I am writing a book. How I tell her and her reaction could be a story in itself. The one person is my thirteen-year-old daughter. She suspects I am gay from conversations she has had with her sisters, although her sisters have denied any confirmation. My thirteen-year-old does not know I’m HIV positive, and if she is not ready to deal with this issue now, my story will be shelved for a few years. This child is such a kind, caring spirit that I am confident she will be proud of me and want my story told.

I find myself able to readily forgive people, because what I have done to my family has been far worse than what others have done to me. It feels great not to hold any grudges and not to be mad at people. If you hurt my child, my wife or my mother, however, then the rules change and you will not be forgiven so easily. If there is one episode that stands out as to what prompted me to make the commitment to chronicle my story, it might be when my daughter’s ex-boyfriend threatened my daughter with announcing “the dark secret of the Brodskys that could ruin your life.” I won’t live my life in hiding anymore. My family loves me and I love them, and that’s what’s important to me.

I would also like to apologize to my mother, my brothers and their families, and Jodi’s family. It was never my intent to hurt family or friends, and if I’ve said anything negative about any of you, I apologize. I love you all very much. I do believe in family and hope you will all forgive me.

Jodi, my wife, is truly an incredible woman. Passionate, loving, intelligent, kind, decent, respected and being the best imaginable wife are only a few of her better qualities. I am clearly #2 in her life; the children come first. Jodi is the best mother in the world and through her kindness, love and wisdom she has molded this family into the type of family most people only dream about. My two oldest girls are each other’s best friends and recently they have included my thirteen-year-old. Seeing my three daughters arm-in-arm on visiting day at camp in the summer of 2001 was the most beautiful sight in the world to me. Maybe I’m a little extra appreciative because I am not supposed to be a biological father by society’s standards. Believe me, I do not take it for granted that my family chooses to keep me around.

Jodi, my story must be told from a humanitarian standpoint, but it must also be told for another reason. My story is my gift to you. I want the world to know this book is not about me. It’s all about

JODI, THE GREATEST LOVE STORY EVER TOLD

 

World AIDS Marathon | Richard M. Brodsky Foundation

Author Richard M. Brodsky
www.trebloon.com
©2002 Trebloon Publications
RichardM.Brodsky@gmail.com