Coming Out Again (And Again) To Grandma With Alzheimer’s.

by Megan Yeo

My name is Megan Gail Yeo, I’m from Stafford, Connecticut. I’m named after my maternal grandmother, Gail Griffith Murray. She’s one of the most unstoppably alive women that I know. She’s raised a kid by herself, she’s been married multiple times, she’s a hippy, she self-defines as a hippy, and she’s just been this huge support to me in my life.

She always has this quote she folds into every conversation you have with her. She says, “You should always move towards the everlasting unfoldment of Love.” And she says, “Capital L Love.”

When I went away for my first semester of college, at Smith College, I was 18, I was really girly, I had really, really long hair, I really was obsessed with boys and makeup and being glamorous. When I came home after a couple months of being at school, I think it was maybe October, I had come out to myself and my friends at school. And I hadn’t cut my hair yet but it was on my list. And I sat down with my family and I told them that I was gay and they were okay with it. They really were, they love me, they said as long as you’re not dropping out of school or hurting yourself in some permanent way, this kind of thing isn’t something we’re ever going to be worried about. And that was wonderful. And the most wonderful was my grandmother’s reaction. We call her “GG” for “Gail Griffith”.

She was so thrilled. She’s like, “You are finding yourself in the most deep way. You are just figuring out who you are, who your identity is, and that’s just beautiful to see.”

And in the spring of that year, my first year of school, and I chopped all my hair off, she was just over the moon. She was thrilled. She also has short hair and she says, “Oh my God, Meggy, I just love how short and free your hair is, you just look beautiful, I always keep mine short, it’s so relaxing. No fuss, no bother, it’s just short.”

And she says that every time I see her and it’s really wonderful to have a grandparent who is just jumping with excitement for who you are and how you’re figuring out who you are. And she’s like one of my favorite people.

So one time my girlfriend and I went over to my grandmother’s house. And we had a really long chat in her sun room and we really got to know each other and it was really beautiful to have this really strong woman who is my grandmother meet this wonderful, strong woman who is my partner. And that was really special to me that they knew each other.

My family started noticing that GG’s developed a case of Alzheimer’s. It’s kind of slow at first and then it’s progressed really rapidly to the point where she runs memories in 3 minutes lapse in short-term. She remembers long-term, she’ll tell stories for hours but she doesn’t remember what you said three minutes ago. And that’s been particularly hard on my mom who really relied on this super strong woman her whole life. But I think it’s also very hard for me because she’s completely forgotten that I ever came out.

So one visit I was in Stafford and I’m sitting across the table from her and she looks over at me and she says, “So are you dating any nice guys lately, Meggy? Anyone special in your life?”

And she’s so enthusiastic, she really wants to know what I’m doing and what’s important to me and I take a deep breath, and I’m like, “No, I’m gay, I’m dating a woman, her name is Erika, you’ve met her, I’m really happy, I really like being who I am. This is just who I am.”

And she says, “Oh, that’s great. That’s great. I’m so glad you just, you know, you found a way to be happy with yourself,” and she says, “But you know, love is love, and life is long, and you might find a guy some day, you never know,” like reassured me.

And I’m like, “No, I’m happy. I’m happy the way I am.”

And she said, “Okay, yeah.”

And then five minutes later, she’s like, “So are you dating anyone? Is there a special boy in your life?”

And I’m like, “Okay, one more time….” and I’m like, “No, I’m dating a woman now.”

And she says, “Oh.”

“Her name’s Erika.”

“Oh, yeah. Yeah. Erika. Erika. Okay.”

And then I’m kind of, “Okay, deep breath. Deep breath.”

And then we talk about other things. Five minutes later, she’s back, she’s asking the same thing.

Every time she repeats it, I think my answers just get shorter and shorter. I’m like, “Yeah, I’m dating a woman.” “Oh, no, I’m gay.” “Yeah, I’m gay.”

I’m trying to make it as loving and gentle as I can. My whole family is sitting there and watching me and they’re uncomfortable and I’m in pain and GG is just confused. And so she keeps asking about my romantic life and I have to keep coming out again and again and again.

Sometimes she does remember things very suddenly, it just falls out of the sky and you just have to roll with it. And it’s really beautiful. She called me the other day. She says, “Oh, Meggy, it’s so good to hear your voice. I just can’t believe I can just call you and you can pick up the phone and then I’m talking to my grandchild.” And then she says, and it just knocked me over, she says, “Oh, and how’s Erika? How are you guys? Are you guys happy?”

And I said, “Yes! We are. I’m so glad that you asked about her, we’re really happy.”

She says, “You know, you just have to find that love in your life that just sits perfectly in your heart and when you find it, don’t let go of it, because that’s the kind of love you grow with. And it’s good to start but then you grow with it and it becomes even greater. It becomes the most beautiful love that you can have in your life.”

And she said, “I’m so happy that you’ve found that. And I’m just so happy. I never knew what a joy it could be to have a grandchild.”

And even though that moment is fleeting, and if you asked her now, she would have no recollection of that conversation. She said it and that feels like such a memory, I’m never going to forget that. I’m going to carry that with me no matter what happens.

Sharing your story can change someone's life. Interested in learning more?