It was Friday, November 13, 2009 that Mother chose to give up a lifetime of keepsakes and a then morning ritual of two jelly doughnuts, three strips of crispy bacon, Ruffles potato chips and one egg over easy with three cups of a steaming hot blend of Irish Crème and Folgers coffee; “no cream or sugar, please.”
She was 87 years old.
She agreed to move into an assisted living facility she aptly referred to as “a medically supervised environment”. The over-sized privately owned and operated house was licensed for 15 people. They accepted only 12 at any one time. Mother was number 12.
She selected a room at the end of a long corridor in the back of the house. It was confirmed that she would be allowed to shut her door anytime. And she could hang her photos and artwork without penalty for damaging the walls.
Mother once told me her most courageous act was serving in WWII as a Yeoman Second Class in the United States Navy.
She was on the Admiral staff in Jacksonville, Florida. Her job was monitoring and updating “the board” where she kept track of naval aircraft and ships at sea. She was “there” during the Bermuda Triangle incident. She often talked about the hush that fell over the room as the Admiral and his staff stood unwaveringly while she carried out her orders posting longitude and latitude: “aircraft location: unknown”.
My mother had no idea back then her most courageous battle would be fought in the twilight years of her life. Her arteries clogged and arthritis sought to control her joints. Inhalers battled to keep her from suffocating and her sight was reduced to fleeting shadows.
We said our goodbyes to the staff and headed back out to the car.
I thanked her for our morning out.
“Well, I won’t be embarrassed to invite my rich friends over here; if I have any left. It’s the end of my old life and I’m coming around full circle…right back into a big house.”
“Are you really going to be okay with this?” I asked, tears in my eyes.
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…New York, New York….” she sang loudly in response.
I paused short of the car and reached in my bag for a tissue.
“If you’re waiting for me, your falling behind…move it out….,” she barked out cheerfully, smiling as she shuffled on ahead.