Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Sometimes Milestones Need To Be Self-Created

(Part of this is reprinted from a previous blog with much being added.)

Being a Gay Man of 70 years, I have not been able to measure my life in milestones as do non-gay men who grew up when I did. In the traditional situation, a man measures his life by his accomplishments and successes but also by family events.

Getting married, having children, having grand-children has not been part of my list of milestone, so in may ways I have had to create them for myself.

On the family front, I celebrated my Bar-Mitzvah but it stopped there. I was not allowed to celebrate my wedding. I was not allowed to have/adopt children. I did not watch my child begin kindergarten or graduate elementary or high school. I did not see my son off to college nor hope that he would join the fraternity I did.  I did not walk down the aisle with the bride, my daughter, on my arm nor wonder when she would make me a grandfather.

Nowadays, with same sex marriage and the availability of adoption, Gay men and women can choose to include these milestones in their life. Too late for me, but grow up I did anyway and many unique milestones did exist for me none-the-less. It was just that they were not necessarily traditional.

My first milestone was owning my own refrigerator. I.E. not my mother's. I could fill it with the food items I wanted and arrange it in a way that made sense to me. As a child my parents would tell me "Don't sit" in the refrigerator!" as I stood with the door open contemplating what I wanted to eat. As an adult, just to show them, I opened the door to both the freezer and refrigerator and literally sat on the shelf created between the two.

Another milestone was the purchase of my first car. I was working at University Ford at the time in Champaign / Urbana, Illinois and going to school at the U of I. The sales manager took me under his wing and helped me through the details of purchasing a car. The car was a gold Mustang with an opera roof (they called it in those days: the roof covered in beige vinyl.)

Earning my BA at the Univeristy of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana campus  and being part of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity were an important part of my becoming a grownup.

My first "real" job was teaching fourth and fifth grades for Northbrook School District 30 in 1972. 

Developing the character of "Maybe the Clown" and winning an Illinois Arts Council grant for "Maybe the Clown and His Back Pocket Review" was a fun part of my life. He performed all over Chicago. 

Quitting teaching, working with some wonderful people at Jerome's Restaurant (who are still close friends,) and touring Mexico for two months was an amazing experience.

Returning to teaching, which lasted for 17 years in Glenview School District 34, by creating the Gifted Education Program was creative and thrilling. It was also politically difficult working with different schools, sets of principals and their staffs, greatly different socio economic communities, and running between seven schools as teacher, administrator, and consultant to teachers and parents caused me to be "black and blue" most of the time. 

Completing my Masters of Education in 1980 and my Advanced Certificate in Administration and Supervision in 1982. All milestones.  I also earned the ubiquitous ABD (All But Dissertation) and probably this is my only one regret in my life, not becoming Dr. Horvich.

Great honor to have won fellowships, two years in the running, from the State of Illinois in the area of Gifted Education. Teaching for National Lewis University and running state summer institutes in Gifted Education added to the honor.

A big milestone, which is shared with the general population so not so different with my being gay, was my retirement from teaching in 1999.

Buying Gregory and my first home in Evanston and creating and extensive garden was a big milestone, and so was the purchase of a second home, just two doors down from the first, which included our living space, Gregory's architecture studio, and two rental units on a 50 x 200 lot two doors down from our original home.

Between the first two homes and after my retirement, I ran Gregory's architecture and design firm using the skills I had picked up in my studies of administration and supervision although applied to a business, not a school.

A difficult milestone was receiving Gregory's diagnosis of Dementia, most likely Alzheimer's Disease. We had suspected that something with him was amiss and in some was were a little relieved that we knew what was going on and could begin to prepare and compensate.

I was accepted, by competitive application residency, in the area of Creative Non-Fiction Writing in 2010 to a two week residency by the Ragdale Foundation, in Lake Forest, Illinois. I attribute beginning to be able to call myself a writer, a poet, and a photographer to this experience. I was able to celebrate the self-publication of two volumes of poetry which were well received by family, friends, and many others who purchased the books.

The next milestone in my life was the opening of Michael's Museum: A Curious Collection of Tiny Treasures as a permanent exhibit at Chicago Children's Museum on Navy Pier. After three years in storage and after 8 months of design, my collection of collections, which until now had lived in the guest room of our home, opened to rave reviews and continues to be a beloved part of CCM, just having celebrated its fifth birthday! In this short time MM has become a wonderful legacy which I have been able to share with millions of visitors to and residents of the greater Chicago area.

Closing Gregory Maire Architect Ltd was also difficult but now we were free to enjoy the life we had left as the Alzheimer's slowly affected Gregory's functioning including cognitive, physical, and emotional abilities.

Traveling to Italy, Spain, and Paris; in addition to our yearly trips to Mexico were great markers of our life together as a gay couple.

Buying our condo in downtown Evanston was a great decision and I continue to love living here.

Gregory and my "Civil Union" ceremony in Stowe, Vermont was a milestone romantically and politically, but once outside of Vermont, did not stand of any legal consequence. Once same sex marriage was legislated in Illinois, Gregory and I chose not to marry if only because it would complicate his being eligible for Medicaid to help with his Alzheimer's needs.

As Gregory's Alzheimer's continued, I was no longer able to provide for his needs at home. I was fortunate in finding The Lieberman Center Special Alzheimer's Memory Care Unit. It was difficult moving him there but I was able to visit almost every day and we were extremely fortunate to have Manny as his caregiver. Lieberman provided excellent care medically and Manny provided social, emotional, support and companionship. My task became easier and the time Gregory and I had together was positive, loving, and quality.

Four students from Chapman University, Dodge School of Media Arts, headed up by Gabe, son of Gregory's college roommate John Schimmel, created "Alzheimer's: A Love Story" a documentary which so far has been accepted to 25 film festivals all over the world and won 12 awards.

The most difficult milestone I have ever had to live through was Gregory's death, after twelve years of living with Alzheimer's Disease, on October 4, 2015 and the grieving process which followed. I never really knew what "grief" was until I experienced that milestone and transition my life at the age of 70.

Gregory's Memorial Celebrations  (one at the condo and one at Lieberman Center,) having Gregory's obituary, which I wrote, appear in the Chicago Tribune and the Windy City Times were significant events. The  follow up story of our life which appeared in May 2016 as a cover feature in the Windy City Times felt big and were time markers for me as well.

The successful launch of the MORE THAN EVER EDUCATION FUN at the inaugural luncheon which took place at the Orrington Hilton in Evanston, marked the most recent high for me. La Casa Norte, a premier Chicago not-for-profit supporting youth and families confronting homelessness, has been a friend to Gregory and me for over 12 years and now Gregory and my education fund will become a legacy which will help LCN provide scholarship and educational support to hundreds of Chicago youth.


Graduating Mather High School
Alpha Epsilon Pi
Bachelors of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Northbrook School District 34
Jerome's Restaurant
Maybe the Clown and His Back Pocket Review
Mexico Adventure
Purchase of 2643 Poplar Avenue, Evanston
Glenview School District 34 Gifted Education Program
Masters Degree in Education
Advanced Certificate in Gifted Education
All But Dissertation
Two State of Illinois Fellowships in Gifted Education
Purchase of 2635 Poplar Avenue, Evanston
Running Gregory's Business
Gregory's Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease
Ragdale Residency Granted in Creative Non-Fiction Writing
Closing of Gregory Maire Architect Ltd
Publication of Two Volumes of Poetry
Purchase of 807 Davis Street, Evanston
Michael's Museum: A Curious Collection of Tiny Treasure
Civil Union Ceremony in Stowe, Vermont
Gregory's Moving into Lieberman Center Memory Care Unit
Deciding to Not Choose Same Sex Marriage in Illinois
"Alzheimer's: A Love Story" Documentary
Gregory's Death, Memorials, Featured Obit, Cover Article
More Than Ever Education Fund

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