Saturday, June 27, 2015

Heavy Stones vs Milestone

I have experienced some wonderful milestone events in my life and I wanted to see if I could remember them all and list them here. I have also experienced some "heavy stones" or disappointments. The good far outweighs the bad. First I will start with some major disappointments.


1) Sorry that I was not more aware of who I was or who I could be while I was in my formative elementary and high school days. These were very unhappy times for me.

2) Wish I could have been more purposeful in choosing who I was during my college days. I lived the life. I studied enough to get passing grades. I loved being in my fraternity as well as being in charge of the dining room and meals as Kitchen Manager (Commissar in fraternity talk) and then President ("Master" in fraternity talk.) I got drunk, I dated, I had sex. I was lavaliered and pinned (one step away from being engaged in fraternity talk.)

3) I decided I was gay through experimentation and some bungling. My "coming out" was not smooth or comfortable and I was not easily accepting of "this illness and/or shameful thing."

4) I have been sorry that I did not "run away" to New York to be part of the Broadway Musical scene as a chorus member, dancer, actor.

5) I did not finish my doctorate after having taken all my classes, passed my oral exams, having my dissertation topic accepted, and having completed approximately 50% of the dissertation work. I quit!

6) Not being able to get married to Gregory, after 40+ years of being in love and in our committed relationship. The ability to do so arrived in Illinois just when Gregory was admitted to the memory care facility due to his Dementia/Alzheimer's of 11+ years. If G and I were married he would not be eligible for Medicaid until all of our joint money, as a married couple, was spent. Pejoratively and simplistically: If you are very poor you are supported by the government or you do not get good care and die. If you are very rich you get the best of care and still have plenty of money available to live the high style life you have been used to. If you are middle class, like Gregory and I, you have just enough money to pay for your health care until you qualify for Medicaid, are then bankrupted, and end up having to sacrifice everything you worked for your entire life.


I finished my BA degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences after having dropped out of school for a few years. My major was Spanish and my split minor was Education/ Psychology. Most of my course work was completed at the University of Illinois at Champaign/ Urbana. I received my Degree in Absentia from the U of I by taking my last four classes in New York City at Hunter College.

I finished my MA degree in Education from National College of Education, now National Lewis University in the area of Gifted Education. 

I was hired to my first job teaching by Northbrook School District 30 at Wescott School in a fourth grade classroom. Due to some internal reorganization, I moved to Willowbrook School teaching fifth grade where I was also the fourth and fifth grade Team Leader.

Robert, my first love, and I were together for 13 years. We grew apart and dissolved the relationship.

That led to meeting and falling in love with Gregory who has been my partner, soul mate, lover, and best friend for 40+ years.

I quit teaching after 10 years and went to work for Jerome's Restaurant in Chicago where I met and worked with many wonderful people including many who are my closest friends today.

I ran away from home "late" or had my mid life crisis "early" when I quit the restaurant and spent two months in Mexico.

Gregory and I purchased our first home on Poplar Avenue in Evanston, Illinois.

I was hired to create the Talented and Gifted Education Program from the ground up for the seven schools that were part of Glenview School District 34. That job lasted 20 years and while it was very satisfying, I was black and blue most of those 20 years from the politics of working in seven different schools, with seven different demographic profiles, with seven different principals most of whom felt I was encroaching on their territory and power. But I was a very successful teacher and many students flowered under my tutelage. I created an amazing program to facilitate my student's talents and became somewhat of an expert in the field among my colleagues in Illinois. I won two fellowships in Gifted Education from the State of Illinois Department of Education.

Gregory and I moved down the block on Poplar Avenue to a much larger property which included the original 1896 neighborhood farm house which was now two two-bedroom rental units. On the back of the property was a 1915 Chicago style loft building the first floor of which housed Gregory's architecture firm on the first floor and our apartment on the second and third floor.

Gregory designed (as a way of lovingly assembling my clutter of collecting) what was named Michael's Museum and was located in the third floor guest room.

I ran Gregory's high end Architecture and Interior Design Firm for five years before we closed due to his diagnosis of Dementia/Alzheimer's Disease. While the diagnosis was difficult we decided to live life to the fullest with the Alzheimer's not spend the rest of our time dying with it.

Gregory and I bought a new car, an Audi TT, a two seat sport roadster. After a day of shopping at the mall we would both, on seeing it across the parking lot, say "Awwww." Not a day went by that at least two people didn't compliment on what a cute car it was. White with a black rag top. We loved driving it!

Gregory and I spent a month in Mexico every year and traveled the world for the first time including Italy twice, Paris, and Spain; each for a month at a time.

In 2006 we traded our Audi TT for an Audi A4 Cabriolet convertible. Again white with black rag top.

Gregory and I bought a wonderful condo in downtown Evanston and lived there seven years. Now Gregory is at the Lieberman Center and I continue to enjoy the condo's peace and centeredness.

In April 2007, a full page article featuring Michael's Museum appeared in the "Q" Section of the Chicago Tribune in an article written by now friend Barbara Mahany. It was the validation I needed to promote the museum in the realization of a long time fantasy of having my museum become part of a real, established museum.

Michael's Museum: A Curious Collection of Tiny Treasures became a permanent exhibit at the world class Chicago Children's Museum on Navy Pier. The opening day ceremonies and the opening night party brought people in quantities that blew CCM's museum mind. 90 guests participated in the day time ceremonies which included speeches, presentations, newspaper and city dignitary attendance, and breakfast. Over 300 attended the evening celebration which included a few speeches, visiting the new exhibit, and a spread of wine, cheese, and sweets. An after the celebration, a dinner for 50 close friends, family, museum people, and out of town guests took place on Navy Pier, downstairs of the museum, at Bubba Gump's Shrimp Restaurant.

By competitive application, I won a two week residency in Creative Non-Fiction Writing at The Ragdale Foundation, an artist community in Lake Forest, Illinois. From that point forward I began being able to call myself a writer, a poet, a photographer although I had been doing all three for many years. I now felt legitimized!

Not sure of the dates, but around this time I self-published two books of poetry,  many of which were informed by Gregory and my journey with Alzheimer's. They were well received and several readings were given around the city.

I wouldn't have ordered Gregory's Alzheimer's this way, but as it progressed and I was unable to provide for his needs at home, I was so fortunate in finding a place at The Lieberman Center, one of the best memory care facilities in Chicago. Now 18 months later Gregory is happy, content, safe, and well taken care of; we have a wonderful private care man with him seven days a week from 11:30 until 6:00; and I am able to visit him almost every day. At Lieberman, we have a wonderful group of caregivers who have helped me change my role from primary caregiver to secondary caregiver including doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, aides, social workers, activity directors, physical therapists, art and music therapists, dietary specialists, a fully staffed Kosher kitchen, housekeepers, and a laundry. Gregory qualified for Medicaid within three weeks (when the norm is 6 months to a year) and our life is good.

Lieberman residents and staff have become a kind of family to me. I get great joy when visiting and am able to nurture and spread my love to many people. I planned and sponsored a milti-sensory spring carnival for the residents at Lieberman in honor of my 70th birthday. It was an amazing success and will become a yearly tradition for them.

The son of a dear friend spearheaded a documentary about Gregory and my love and our Alzheimer's story as part of a class project at the Chapman University, Dodge School of Media Arts. A team of four "kids" stayed with me at the condo, filmed and interviewed, visited with Gregory and after a short period of a month put together a wonderful fifteen minute documentary that beautifully distilled Gregory and my 40 years of love and 11 years of living with Alzheimer's into a moving film. I was able to attend the screening in Orange, California at the school and it provided yet another "15 minutes of fame" for me.

In thinking of all these accomplishments, I guess I am amazed at myself. I wonder what will be next.

1 comment:

  1. I've always told you I'm a huge fan of yours.
    I've often told you that I'm in awe of all that you've accomplished and how you handle and view life. I say all those things again now but ten fold after reading this beautifully worded piece of your life. I love you so dearly my favorite Uncle!


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