Little-Known Brain Disease Rips Apart Lives of Victim, Loved Ones
When Stu Bryant began acting rude and impulsive, his family was baffled. Then they learned he had frontotemporal disease, which strips away self-restraint and the ability to decipher social situations.
More than a year after the diagnosis, Maureen Bryant had grown accustomed to making excuses for her husband.
When Stu stood behind a tattooed woman in line at Panda Express, and said loudly, “Wow, that’s a lot of tattoos,” Moe stepped between him and the woman and apologized.
When he repeatedly wandered into the house that was being built down the street — despite the “No Trespassing” sign and the fence — she explained to the owner that he was just curious.
Possibly the most embarrassing episode occurred when they were coming home from dinner, and she dashed into a mini-mart at a marina in Oxnard to buy milk.
“Do you know that man?” the owner said, seeing Stu in the car. “He’s been stealing from me.”
Moe remembers being baffled.
Muffins and cheesecake, the owner said, showing her photos from the store’s video camera. “But I can’t catch him. He drives away in the golf cart too fast.”
Moe offered to pay for what Stu had taken. “He has no control over what he does,” she said to police when they arrived.
Sometimes she will say that he has a brain tumor. It’s easier than saying frontotemporal dementia and having to describe how the disease has stripped away his self-restraint. Stu is no longer aware of how to behave in the company of others, and like an unknowing child, will blurt out the first thing that comes to mind or will act without considering the consequences.
Moe realizes that this is difficult to understand. Being rude or disrespectful seems like a deliberate choice, and Stu, 60, has a quick smile and an easy laugh. It’s easy for people to write him off as inconsiderate and self-centered.
This is what Moe and her daughters, Katy and Jessica, did before they discovered how sick he was.