THE LAST FIVE YEARS For thirteen years, my husband and myself asked my widowed mom to move in with us. We knew she'd love our cozy Florida home. Mom always declined mentioning her many reasons. One reason always exasperated me. “You father is in every room of this house. He built the kitchen cabinets; he rewired most of the rooms; he put in the half bath in the basement. He's done so much. How can I leave it all behind?” I always replied, “Mom, if your house was destroyed by fire, would you forget dad?” “Never!” she'd reply adamantly, “He's in my heart.” However, she would still obstinately, refuse our offer adding, “I'll leave my house when they take me out feet first!” We visited her as often as our pensions allowed which came down to twice a year. Mom would fly down to see us once a year, that is until her health began to fail. In 2005, she was diagnosed with macular degeneration. It would be matter of time until her sight was gone completely. Walking was now an issue. Mom had a wonderful neighbor who would take her to church every week and together, they'd go to dinner following the religious service. Dianne would talk mom grocery shopping and help her pay her bills. Yet, despite needing this help, mom wouldn't move. Her reasons began to change. “I won't be a burden to my children.” To which I'd add, “So, it's ok to be a burden to your neighbor?” Then the unthinkable happened. It was 2011 and we were visiting mom for Christmas. My husband was fishing up a few repairs in the basement and I was tidying up the dining room. Mom said she needed to use the bathroom but decided since my husband was working on the one in the basement, she climbed the stairs to the second floor. As she approached the stairs to descend, she missed a step and in a small ball, bounced on every step on her way down where she hit her head on the newel post. There was blood everywhere and she couldn't move without severe pain. I dialed 9-1-1. The EMTs loaded mom in the ambulance and allowed me to ride with them. My husband followed in our car. Mom was not just lucky that day, she was blessed. Her only injuries were a laceration in the back of her head that required 7 staples, a broken foot, and a few other bruises. It could have been worse, much worse. My husband and I discussed the latest situation and agreed that now was the time to bring mom home. She no longer could live alone and with or without her consent, she was coming home with us. The problem we now faced was that she could not be able to tolerate a two-day drive to Florida. We decided that my husband would leave within two days for Florida and I would stay with mom until she was stable enough for a plane ride. Ten days later, we received the confirmation from her doctor that, yes, she was now stable enough for the trip. I called the airline and made our one-way reservations. Then I called my husband and gave him our flight information. My son and his wife spent every day with mom and me helping me take care of mom and beginning the task of clearing out her personal possessions. We packed her necessities and my son agreed to have them shipped to Florida. My son and his wife bought a transport-wheelchair which would make things easier for both of us. When the time came, we helped mom into the wheelchair. My son and a few of mom's neighbors carried her and her new wheelchair out of her house – feet first! I told her she got her wish. It wasn't until mom began living with us that I noticed her memory wasn't the same as it had been. I took her to the doctor and had her tested. The diagnosis was the onset of dementia. Mom lived with us for just over five years, losing her memory with each passing day. Another thing I found was a lump on mom's back. Should I have had it scanned? Mom was 90-years old. My doctor and I discussed the issue and decided we'd leave it alone. Mom's memory grew increasingly worse and by 2016, her communication was gone. She could hear us but couldn't respond. We read magazines, books, the newspaper. We'd turn on the TV to a science channel. She loved science and thought she'd enjoy it. I still gave her a pedicure each week and bathed her every other day. I often wonder if she every really knew. I hope so. Then, in October of 2016, the lump ruptured internally causing sepsis to ravage her body. Mom died 2 days later. While it's been very hard emotionally on me, I try to find comfort in believing that she's no longer in pain, her memory is back and somewhere in Heaven she's once again, dancing with my dad. At least I know that the last five years of her life, she wasn't alone. She had company every day. For a while, she laughed and enjoyed life in Florida. She even once said, “Why did I wait so long?” While it still saddens me to not have her with me, I will always cherish the time we had together. In my heart, I know she did too.

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