I decided to post about my Mother this week also. These are some of the last photos that I have of her when she looked like “Anne” or Granny Annie as she liked to be called. She had vanity plates that said Granny. She still enjoyed her dolls and she enjoyed playing with Nina during this visit.
She had been diagnosed for a few years with Alzheimer’s at this point. She could not live on her own any longer so she moved back to her hometown of Rome, NY to live with her older sister. Alzheimer’s is truly a horrible disease. I believe at first it is hard for the patient, but after a certain point it really is harder on those around them. I remember reading the book The 36 Hour Day when she was first diagnosed. It was so hard to comprehend that this vibrant beautiful talented woman would soon not even remember her own children or remember how to do so many of things that brought her joy in her life. I don’t think I ever finished reading that book.
She lived with my Aunt for a few years, but it became too much work for her too. We brought her back to Lancaster and she moved into an Assisted Living Facility that I designed in Cheektowaga, NY, Elderwood Village at Maplewood. She was a handful and kept getting out of the facility.
We had to move her into a skilled nursing facility,Heathwood, which I also designed in Williamsville, NY. The staff was great and they took good care of her. She wore an ankle bracelet so when she got close to the doors they would lock down so that she could not leave the facility. She was quite the flirt with the maintenance men. I worked for the company too and they would tell me “your Mom pinched my butt today”. Such an interesting and complicated disease!
By the time we moved out to California, she did not remember who I was anymore. Occasionally when I would see her she would have a moment of clarity and know me, but in a split second it was gone and I was just a nice girl visiting her. We moved out in August of 2003, the following March she turned 80. The week after her birthday, I got a call from the nurses at the facility that she had taken a turn and she was not swallowing her food. That is usually what happens with this disease… eventually the person does not remember how to swallow their food. She had her wishes documented and she did not want a feeding tube. The nurses were so good and called me daily to give me updates. I received the call that they thought it would only be a few days, I booked a flight for the next day which happened to be Easter Sunday. I celebrated with the kids in the morning and they took me to the airport. I had told the nurses that I was on my way and they told “Annie”. I arrived in Buffalo and reached the nursing home at about 2:00AM just hoping that she would still be alive. They escorted me to her room and told me that they did not think she had very long, but they felt she was waiting for me. I think they see death so much that they just know. I sat with her, she was not awake or coherent. Her breathing was deep. I had already had a priest administer last rights earlier that day. I sat and recited the rosary and then went through all of the people that I knew had gone before her. I told her they were waiting for her and that she should go to them. She had been breathing very heavy since I had gotten there. She made a loud gasp and then her breathing got very quiet. I could barely hear her anymore, so I watched her chest rise and fall. More time passed between each rise and fall and then nothing. I watched for a few minutes more. She had passed. It was the first time that I have ever been with a person as they died. It really was peaceful. I called the nurses in and they documented the time of death. They stood around her bed and cried. Annie died just before 4:00AM. I was there for less than 2 hours. She had waited for me.