Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mom Goes On Another Adventure

 I'm not sure how my blog has managed to evolve (or devolve, depending on how you look at it) from a blog about my life as a gay LDS actor into a blog about my life as an excommunicated gay LDS actor to a blog about my Mom's dementia, but it seems to be that way today.

Just after writing my most recent post last night about my mom's deteriorating mental state, she once again kept us on our toes when she went missing this morning.  I guess she had made an appointment with her hairdresser this morning.  I would gladly have taken her if I had known about it.  When I woke up, there was a note on the back door from Mom telling me she had gone to the hairdresser.  Normally, this wouldn't seem like a big deal.  I think Mom has been going to the same hairdresser for 40+ years now, and her home (where her salon is) is not terribly far from my mom's.  Mom has been there hundreds of times and has often walked over there.

Yet there was a nagging feeling in my gut that made me think I ought to go over to the hairdresser's neighborhood to pick Mom up.  Before I could, my sister arrived.  I told her where Mom was, and she asked if she should go pick her up.  I said it was probably a good idea, and since I had to go to work pretty soon, I decided my sister could just pick Mom up.  But when my sister called the hairdresser, she informed my sister that Mom had never shown up.

My niece, nephew-in-law, sister, and I all went looking for her.  I called work and told them I'd be late and we individually searched for Mom (in the hairdresser's neighborhood, in my mom's, and in places that she frequents often).  Some of my mom's neighbors got involved as well.  No luck.  Mom was nowhere to be found.  Because Mom's sense of direction has always been awful and has been even worse since her dementia has taken hold, she literally could have gone any direction thinking it was the right way to go, so we had no idea where she might be.

After no luck finding her, we decided maybe we ought to call the police.  My sister said she would so and told me to get to work.  Strangely, I wasn't worried.  It's not the first time Mom has gotten lost, and it was almost like, "Figures," rather than "Oh, my gosh, where could she be?!"

By the time I got to work, my nephew-in-law informed me that Mom had returned home.  From what I can glean, Mom headed over to the hairdresser's and either couldn't locate her house or couldn't figure out how to enter her salon.  Never mind that Mom has been going there for years.  That silly dementia sure wreaks its havoc on a once sharp mind.

Mom then wandered elsewhere.  We're not sure where nor is she.  We think she was in a business area rather than a residential area because she came upon a drinking fountain.  She also said she might have been in Taylorsville (which is possible; Mom lives in Midvale, but Taylorsville is not beyond the realm of possibility).  Wherever she was, a kind couple sensed she was lost when she asked the man how to get to State Street.  When he asked her where she lived, she said, "Midvale," he told her he'd better drive her, so I'm guessing she was not close.  He actually was driving that way anyway and dropped her off at the house.  My sister was on the phone with the police when she came back, so I guess all ended well.

When I talked to Mom about it, she remembered it and admitted she was lost rather than trying to downplay it.  It gave us a good chance to take about her memory problems and our concerns for her well-being.  Mom said she sometimes does "idiotic" things.  I said, "Don't say that.  It has nothing to do with idiocy or stupidity, Mom.  Dementia is a disease just like diabetes or heart disease, and you have it.  It's not your fault; it's just what the disease does to your mind.  But you can understand why we might be concerned about you?"

I don't know how much I got through to her or how much one really can get through to her, but it at least gave us the opportunity to talk seriously about her issues.  It can be exciting and stressful having a parent with dementia.  More excitement than I wanted today.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bob and Irma and Mom

I've written about a particular ward member in my mom's ward (the ward I grew up in) before here, here, and here, among other posts.  I detail much of my experience with him in the first link.  In any case, I've never thought of him as a particularly hateful or mean-spirited individual; just one who seems trapped in a past where chauvinism, racism, and homophobia were more accepted and normal.  I would certainly not describe this brother as progressive.  He is old-fashioned and ignorant; a man who seems incapable of progressing with the times.  If he lived in the 50s, he'd probably be right at home.

In spite of being "stuck in time," there is much to admire about this brother.  He is a much harder worker than I've ever been in my life.  Although he can be a busy-body, he has always been there to serve when someone needs help.  He tries to help his neighbors, and although his efforts are sometimes unwelcome, I think he has good intentions.  He has always been enthusiastic about the gospel and has a strong testimony about what he believes.  And while his attitudes towards women are sometimes old-fashioned and even chauvinistic, at the same time I admire his devotion to his wife, who has seemed just as content to be stuck in the 1950s as he is.

I don't think I've ever given this couple pseudonyms in my blog, but for clarity's sake let's call them Bob and Irma.  Irma has had some form of dementia for some time now.  I don't know whether it's Alzheimer's or what, but she has not been mentally well for some years now.  I find it mildly amusing when my mom goes on about how "Irma has really gone downhill," or "Irma's really losing it," and yet fails to recognize that ten years from now she could very likely be Irma herself.

In church on Sunday I looked behind me and stared at Irma before Sacrament Meeting started.  She was a sharp woman once, and as I gazed at her she seemed a shell of who she once was; a woman lost inside of herself; a woman who doesn't readily recognize anybody anymore and barely talks.  It made me sad not just because Irma as I once knew her is pretty much gone, but more so because I thought to myself, "That's what my family probably has to look forward to in the next few years with my own mom."  It was a depressing thought.

What I have found admirable is how well Bob, who's not exactly in terrific health himself, has taken care of Irma.  Bob doesn't strike me as a particularly patient man, but I know he loves his wife terribly, and to his credit, he has taken care of her these last few years when I'm sure it's been a challenge.

Today I learned that Irma had to go to the hospital yesterday, possibly because of a stroke (details aren't clear yet), and today she was taken to a care center, I believe.  Whether it's a permanent facility is not clear to me yet, but I would not be surprised if it was.  Frankly, I have been astounded that Irma has been able to live at home as long as she has.  She's not been well, and I'm sure she's been hard to care for.  And Bob, who is pretty feeble himself, has been doing the majority of the care, as far as I can tell, and I'm amazed he has been able to do it this long.

When I heard Irma was being moved to a care facility, my heart ached for Bob, a man I have admittedly had issues with in the past.  That man adores his wife, and I think not having her permanent companionship, no matter how challenging it has been these past years, will surely be devastating to him.  I know he will feel a deep loss over her not being in the house and over the fact that he cannot care for her on his own anymore.  I think caring for her has actually been a driving force in his life as she's continued to get worse, and I almost wonder if he'll feel a loss of purpose.  Of course, I can't speak or think for Bob, but that's how I perceive it.

My own mother, who is not in the kind of shape Irma is in and who is still relatively healthy and independent, is becoming more challenging to care for, and I think she could easily be headed down the same path Irma has taken.

My siblings and I had a meeting with Mom about a month ago to talk frankly with her about our worries and to voice our concerns about her deteriorating mental health.  While I still don't think she recognizes the full impact of the issues, I do think it was good to have the meeting.  I do think she was more receptive to our concerns than I imagined she would be, and she responded more positively than I thought she would.

We also had a meeting with a senior care advisor (without Mom) who gave us some resources and advice to help us deal with Mom's issues better.

While it's still a challenge, I do feel that Mom is recognizing some of her limitations and realizing that she does require more help than she might want to admit she needs.  That doesn't change the fact that sometimes her memory issues, judgment, and awareness keep us on our toes and, more likely than not, will eventually require more help than we are able to provide her ourselves.

In the meantime, she can still do much on her own, and I try to give her as much independence as I feel I can safely give.  It is often like caring for a child, though.  Mom isn't a child, of course, but some of her decisions are not always the best, sometimes she's very unaware of what''s going on around her, and her forgetfulness does cause some problems.  It can also be very wearing to care for her at times.  In her old age, she has become more needy, gets more easily agitated and depressed, and sometimes makes unwise choices that could adversely affect her health and well-being.

My siblings call me the "golden child" because I seem to be the favorite son; the one who can get her to do things she doesn't necessarily want to do.  When I'm away from Jonah and here with Mom, I become the primary caregiver, and it can be exhausting at times.

Mom is also a type 2 diabetic, and it is a great challenge getting her to eat properly or, sometimes, eat at all.  She loves her treats and will often by boxes of cookies or chocolate bars or ice cream or Diet Coke, and instead of eating more healthy fare, she will sometimes subsist on her goodies.  Especially since her doctor wonders if her mental issues might be related to her high blood sugar, we are trying to get her to keep her blood sugar in the low-100 area, and there hasn't been a day since I've been back in Utah when her blood sugar was lower than 206.

Mom is very stubborn, and reasoning with her about her high blood sugar often feels fruitless.  Also, there are times when Mom is alone at home, and we can't steer her in a more healthy direction if we're not there to witness what she eats.  Also, there is a part of me that just feels like the fight is not worth having; that I'd rather she just enjoy what she eats while she's still alive to eat it.

Mom used to be so good at doing routine things.  She used to pay her bills online, check her email, take her pills regularly, check her blood sugar, set and disarm her burglar alarm, etc.  She's forgotten that she even used to pay bills online and doesn't remember how to do it; she can't remember how to set or disarm the alarm; she hasn't checked her email in months (not that she gets much in the way of email anyway); she constantly has to be reminded to check her blood sugar; and sometimes she forgets her pills until I remind her (and even then she believes she's taken them - fortunately we have a handy pill box that helps her realize she's wrong).  She's still good about paying bills, but I know there will come a time when someone will have to do it.  She easily misplaces mail if she's not careful.

Mom's judgment is not always the best, and we don't trust her to do as much on her own as we once did.  She used to make breakfast for herself every day (usually cheese and eggs), but doesn't anymore.  I don't know if she's forgotten how or what.  Now she just eats a couple of yogurts, which isn't necessarily as good for her sugar levels.  If we don't actively make her eat it, she often skips dinner entirely.  She forgets healthy food is in the fridge and often eats junk food.  Because she has forgotten how to use debit card machines, she will often withdraw large amounts of cash from the bank and carry it in her purse.  Sometimes she makes withdrawals several times in a span of a couple of weeks because she has forgotten she already did so.  I've actually gone into her purse and re-deposited cash she withdrew because I don't feel it is safe to carry that much cash (and she doesn't notice anyway).

For a while, she was donating to every charity on the planet and actually ended up giving her credit card number to some company that ended up charging quite a bit of money to various charities on her behalf.  Fortunately, we put her on a do-not-call and do-not-mail list and when people call her number now, it declares it as a "no solicitor" number, and I've noticed a decrease in the calls and mail she gets.  It sounds terrible, but I actually go through my mom's mail and throw away all the junk and solicitations before giving it to her (or if she gets it first, I throw them away after because she doesn't remember).  I certainly don't mind my mom giving to charity, and it's her money to give, but it was getting out of hand, and the mom from five or six years ago would not approve of how reckless the mom now is being with her money.  And the fact is, if we ever do need to put Mom in a home, it is her money that will first be used to pay for it, so we want to make sure her accounts remain solid.

One of the things that is hardest for me personally is that it's just hard to see my mom's memory and personality deteriorate.  She is so easily agitated by insignificant things that never would have bothered her previously.  She misremembers things.  For example, she keeps telling us her dad died when she was 16 (not true).  Or she forgets huge chunks of her past.  She has no recollection at all of a job she held for about two and a half years and she doesn't remember my getting excommunicated, although she is fully cognizant of the fact that I am gay and have a partner.  She repeats the same questions and phrases over and over and over again, which isn't her fault, but it does get tiring.  I guess that's another thing I really miss; Mom and I used to have such thought-provoking and interesting conversations.  I don't feel like I can really talk to her about very deep things anymore, and even if I do, she forgets it minutes later.  We used to be able to talk about books and movies, for example, and now she just can't retain or expound on anything.  She gets so lonely and bored and just wants company.  I play Scrabble with her (she can still do that) and go out to eat with her, which she loves (and which gives me a chance to gear her toward something more healthy).  One of our favorite games used to be Trivial Pursuit.  She just can't play it anymore.  She can't remember anything.

If I ask her where she wants to eat, she always makes me choose, and I know it's because she can't remember the name of any restaurants.  Whenever she's watching a movie, she can never tell me what it is even if it's a movie I know she's seen numerous times.  She just can't remember.

She sometimes can't readily identify people she knows in photographs, particularly if they were taken a while ago.  There are people she's known for years whose names she can no longer remember.  She gets lost and disoriented very easily.  The other day we walked to a nearby restaurant and when we left to go home, she asked where the car was.  I told her we had walked, and she couldn't remember doing so.  About  a week ago, she told me my niece was sleeping downstairs, and I said that our niece wasn't home and that she was at work.  Mom went downstairs and came back up and said she was sleeping on the bed.  When I went down, there was no one on the bed because my niece, in fact, wasn't home.  Mom insisted she had just seen her, and that if she wasn't there, she must have slipped out while we weren't looking, but that was not possible, and my niece's car had been gone the whole time.

The other day, Mom was upset at my nephew-in-law for cutting down her bush (which wasn't a bush at all, but some foliage growing out of an old stump).  Apparently she cried about it, but had completely forgotten about it by the time I got home.  Two years ago, Mom would have been delighted that someone was cutting down all overgrown brush.

Mom also has very vivid dreams.  When Jonah was in town, we had been eating and talking in the kitchen for about an hour and a half.  At midnight we headed for bed.  My mom's room is right off of mine, and we heard her door squeak open shortly after midnight (a time when my mom is not known to be up) and heard her shuffle down the hall.  When I opened my bedroom door, it was pitch black, but I went to the kitchen and turned on the light.  Mom was fully dressed and wearing a winter coat and had her purse (but no eyeglasses, which she needs to see) and was just about headed out the back door when I calmly asked her where she was going.

She said, "I have to go pick the kid up."

"What kid?" I asked.  It was clear to me that she had been dreaming and was still half asleep.

She looked confused and said, "I have to pick up...  Well, I don't know, but I have to pick the kid up."

I said, "Why do you have to pick this kid up?"

She furrowed her brow and said, "I think I'm supposed to take him to a baptism."

I said, "I think you've been dreaming, Mom."

"No," she insisted.  "Somebody just called me on the phone and I'm supposed to pick him up."

I said, "Mom, Jonah and I have been here for an hour and a half and the phone hasn't rung.  I think you had a dream.  It's midnight, you know."

"I know," she said, "but someone just called."

"Okay," I said, playing the game.  "Who are you supposed to pick up?"

"I don't know," she responded.

"Then how are you going to pick them up if you don't know who they are?"

"I don't know; I just know I'm supposed to pick them up."

"How will you pick them up?" I asked.

"I'm going to drive my car," Mom answered.

"Mom, you don't have a license anymore, remember."

Suddenly, something got through.  She looked at me in wonderment.  "That's right, I don't."  She thought a moment more.  "I don't even have keys to the car anymore."

"That's right, you don't.  And you're not wearing glasses, either.  How would you have driven without those."

She looked at me, finally understanding.  "I think you're right.  I think I was dreaming."


One last look at me, as if to make sure.  "And no one called on the phone?"


"I think I was dreaming."  Now she was convincing herself.

"I think we should get you back to bed."

"It seemed so real."

"I'm sure it did," I said, following her back to her room.

"I'm so glad you stopped me, " she said.  "Where would I have gone if you hadn't stopped me?"

My thoughts exactly.  "I don't know, Mom."

"Where would I have gone?" she asked incredulously.

"I don't know," I said with concern.  "But this is exactly the kind of stuff we worry about, Mom."

The good thing is I did stop her... this time (and fortunately, the alarm was set and she would have triggered it), and in retrospect, the event was kind of humorous.  But it also gave us the opportunity to talk more about the issues that concern my siblings and me.  And Mom did remember the whole thing the next day and hasn't forgotten it as of yet, so that's good.

But she has gotten lost and wandered off, and with how easily disoriented she gets, it is something that concerns us.  Thus far, she still seems to be able to walk to several places on her own without any trouble, but there are also places that were once familiar to her that she cannot remember how to get to or where they are.

It's sad and hard to watch, and it makes me sad to think what the future may hold.  I love and adore my mom, but I would be lying if I didn't say that it's very challenging at times.  It is a challenge; one I am trying to deal with with optimism and a sense of humor.  That's really all I can do. 

"I'll Take It."


Well, Barack Obama's proclamation of his support for gay marriage is old news, and my reaction is not as fresh as it was when he made his announcement, but I did want to write how I felt about it.

After Joe Biden's interview where he voiced his support for gay marriage, and then the White House spun its wheels in response, I found myself thinking, "Do I prefer a president who supports gay marriage but is waiting until reelection to publicly avow it so that he has more leverage to do something about it or do I prefer a president who has the integrity to publicly support what he actually believes even if it possibly endangers his chances for reelection."

Once I heard President Obama's remarks on gay marriage, I realized I preferred the latter.  Now when he came out in favor of gay marriage, I had several friends, some of them gay, who said his hand was forced by Biden and that he should have declared his support for gay marriage earlier in his administration when he had more of a majority in Congress.  Some speculated that it was simply a campaign ploy to get more votes suggesting that, after all, those who are against gay marriage are probably not in Obama's corner anyway.

My response, echoing the response of another gay friend, is that, whatever Obama's reasons,  "I'll take it."  I suspect that Obama has privately supported gay marriage for a while.  I do think Biden's statement probably pushed him to make an announcement he was going to make anyway, only perhaps sooner than he intended.  I do think his statement is probably both a mixture of political and genuine.  But this issue is still a very polarizing one, and the fact is that Obama is the first and only sitting  president thus far to publicly declare his support for gay marriage, and I think that deserves some respect.  I also think it's a brave thing to do even if it is partly political.  And because gay marriage and equal rights is an issue I care very much about and which affects me, I am proud to have a president who stands behind me.

The fact is, President Obama alone doesn't have much power to directly change the laws that govern whether gay people can be legally married.  Judges, legislators, senators, and voters have more power than he does on this issue, I think.  But I do think that such a high-profile figure coming out in favor of it does have an effect on others.

I've said many times in my blog that I think equal rights for gays is just a rolling stone that can't be stopped.  Whether or not Barack Obama is re-elected (and I hope he is; I find Romney artificial, out-of-touch, and untrustworthy, not to mention the fact that his politics (today at least; who knows what he'll profess tomorrow) are not at all in line with my own), I'm glad that he (Obama) will be on the right side of history as far as gay rights is concerned.  The reasons he supports gay marriage aren't even as important to me as the fact that he supports it, period.

I think this is an exciting time for the gay rights movement.  We are watching history unfold, and eventually we will have the same rights our heterosexual counterparts have.  I don't know when, but we will.  I guarantee it.  It's exciting (and sometimes frustrating and other times gratifying) to watch the fight for equality.  It will be interesting when history shows who was on which side.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pride, And Where I've Been

It's almost been a full month since I last wrote.  Sorry about that.  I've wanted to write, but life has just gotten very, very busy of late.  I was in rehearsals for one show and then started rehearsals for another while still doing performances for the first one.  Jonah came to town to visit.  Caring for and spending time with my mom has taken some time as well.  I've also felt more tired lately and have also been spending less time on line and more time reading books, which has been nice.

I've kept a list of things I would like to blog about including my thoughts on President Obama's support of gay marriage; more thoughts about my mom's dementia and how it is affecting me; a Richard Dutcher movie I saw called Falling; what Jonah and I experienced on Temple Square while waiting for my newly married nephew and his bride; thoughts on the musical Man of La Mancha; thoughts on a favorite movie, Dead Poets' Society; my niece's baptism; and thoughts on missionaries, among others.

So I've got some posts coming up the pike, hopefully.  I'm not sure when I will be able to post all these wonderful ideas, but I would certainly like to.

There are some things I would like to post about my career, but I fear some of them are a little to personal, and the fact that some of my work colleagues know about my blog, I don't feel comfortable discussing some of those things so publicly, so those may just have to be for my journal.

Today, however, I would like to post about the upcoming Gay Pride Day here in Utah.  I'm not one who typically attends Pride, although I am certainly out and proud to be the gay individual I am.  I went to church instead of Pride last year, and this is what I experienced.  You may want to read the link before continuing.

Although I only wrote about the experience and not how it related to skipping Pride, I did not miss the irony that if I had skipped church and gone to Pride last year, not only would I have been surrounded by a bunch of people who would have loved me and accepted me for who I am, but I would have missed hearing the sanctimonious and hurtful comments of a couple of annoying church members.

I'm not making the same mistake this year.  I still enjoy church, but I am going to Pride this year.  I'm also marching in the parade this year.  I actually have a dilemma, though.  My work would like me to march with them, but I am also very interested in marching with the Mormons Building Bridges group, whose invitation is below:

Please come join Latter-day Saints in extending a message of love and support to our LGBT brothers and sisters by marching in the Utah pride parade. Each step we take will be an outward demonstration of our commitment to loving our neighbors. We are marching for the values of empathy and compassion that the Mormon faith teaches. Recognizing that silence (though coupled with good intentions) may leave some LGBT individuals to seriously question their self-worth in their homes, congregations, and before God, we are marching to save lives.

We will start lining up on 400 East between 300 and 400 South starting at 8 am. Please arrive no later than 8:30 am. The parade doesn't start till 10 am but the Pride Center folks have been so accommodating in moving us to the #1 position behind the grand marsall, we want to give them plenty of time to manage our big group.

Please check the weather report and within the parameters below, dress accordingly.Bring your own food and drink with you.

We will be marching in CHURCH ATTIRE (and walking shoes). This will send a powerful message. Particularly we hope fellow church-going Mormons will see us and think "gee they're just like me, maybe now I can stand up for LGBT people in my own congregation".

Please consider making a sign to carry with you. A list of approved messaging for the signs can be found in the "Files" section of the MBB Facebook page. Please only bring signs with approved messaging.

MBB will provide rainbow flags for those who'd like to march with them. MBB will also provide suckers with the phrase "love one another" printed on them to hand out along the parade route.

This march is not a political gesture, rather it is a simple statement that average Mormons do love their LGBT brothers and sisters and want to make that message clear. All who wish to march whether currently active LDS and/or former LDS are welcome. Please feel free to invite all like-minded friends to join the march. Thank you for being willing to stand up and build bridges of love and understanding. 

I haven't decided which group I want to march with.  For some reason, it feels more important and meaningful to me personally to march with the Mormons Building Bridges group than it does to march with my employer, but I also don't want my employer and fellow co-workers (who are also friends) to feel snubbed.  I haven't decided what I'm doing yet, but I will be attending Pride.  It feels like the right and necessary thing to do this year.

A fellow member from my Mom's ward who knows I'm gay said she would be marching in the group.  That meant a lot to me for her to reach out like that.

Anyway, I just wanted you all to know that I'm still alive, still have things to say, and hopefully can blog about them in the near future.