FOR GREGORY. He was not a VICTIM of ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE, he was a HERO!
PLEASE NOTE: Even though this blog is now dormant there are many useful, insightful posts. Scroll back from the end or forward from the beginning. Also, check out my writer's blog. Periodically I will add posts here if they provide additional information about living well with Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease.
Monday, December 14, 2015
When I came out in my 20's, during the 1970's, homosexuality was not discussed, not visible, no role models, illegal, etc. As an even younger man, dealing with my feelings for the same sex, for sure I felt that I was the only one who had these feelings, that I must be "sick," and that if I loved or lusted after another man, did that mean I was a woman in some way?
During the early Stonewall Era, I signed petitions, protested, and marched. But always carefully because I would not have done well being arrested and would for sure have been fired from my teaching position if I was found out. Astounding that it was felt that just because I was Gay, I would automatically be a threat to young boys while Straight male teachers didn't automatically molest young girls made and makes no sense.
Slowly things changed, being gay was more accepted by family and friends and colleagues. Eventually this issue of Gay Marriage began to be resolved in state after state and finally at the Supreme Court level. Even so that doesn't mean there are not gay haters and gay baiters and gay beaters out there. But it is better.
Now that marriage was possible between Gregory and I, we chose not to because of the financial complications that Medicaid would pose in his care at the Alzheimer's Care Facility. Bluntly: poor people are supported by the state or they die, the wealthy never has had to worry about getting the best care and paying for it. It is the middle class family (and now gay married family) that would go bankrupt and all those life savings, earned with such hard work, would fly out the window for health care.
But ironically, like the Hippies of the 70's who would rather live together without benefit of marriage papers saying, "How does a piece of paper make our love any deeper or any more permanent?" now Gregory and I could CHOOSE not to be married having at least the right to be able to CHOOSE to do so or not!
So to the title of this post. Tonight on the way home from visiting Michael's Museum: A Curious Collection of Tiny Treasures at Chicago Children's Museum on Navy Pier with a dear family friend who has served as a mentor and role model having been through the Alzheimer's journey with her husband; after dropping her off, the song from West Side Story, "Maria" and then "There's A Place For Us" came on the radio.
The lyrics resonated with me and I felt sad being without Gregory sitting next to me. I wondered about the strength of our love and wondered if that love was so strong, so pure, so intense because it was a love that "dare not speak its name" as it used to be called. Was it because it was a "forbidden" love that had to make its own rules and establish its own milestones of success. Was it a love so strong because as a male I knew what male love was about and that made it easier to love another male instead of having to figure out what a female needed when it came to love
Will never know for sure, just musing, but none-the-less, my love for Gregory and his love for me got us through many very difficult situations: Lack of money at times. Getting advanced degrees with lots of studying and less time to be together.
With "running away to Mexico" for 6 months when I was 35 years old. When Gregory divorced his female wife of 7 years. When he was searching for himself and trying to decide what his life's work would be.
When he studied for and passed his architecture licensing exams. When he opened his architecture and design firm and had me there to help.
When I lost a year to chemo therapy for my lymphoma cancer. When I retired early from teaching.
When we worked together to build Michael's Museum in the guest room of our home. When the museum was transferred to Chicago Children's Museum.
When we received his diagnosis of Dementia/ Alzheimer's. Through the twelve years we lived, and lived well with the diagnosis. With his last 18 months at the memory care facility. During the three days he used to die.
And now with my being really alone and grieving and trying to keep on keeping on.
And I realize that I am not the only one grieving his death. His family and many friends and just acquaintances for whom he made a difference grieve as well. His gentle demeanor, kindness, generosity, compassion, deep spirit and love of fellow personkind always shone through, even during his diminished years, months, weeks, and days with Alzheimer's
Will never know for sure about this huge love, but I do know and am grateful for a love that will continue to last for as long as I do and for as long as the people whom Gregory influenced and touched remember and love him as well.