I loved my nanny so much. She was warm and cozy and always smelled like the perfect mix of flowers and ivory soap. She was constantly feeding me, hugging me and making sure I was warm (socks were required even in the middle of July). She was classy and reserved and beautifully dressed. She was sneaky too. She would slip me $100 bills whenever I was home from college and would make me promise not to tell anyone. She would tell my brother and I both separately that we were her favorite grandchild but would always later deny it when we tried to make her choose.
I spent much of my time with Nanny eating her linguine with zucchini and trying on her fancy high heeled shoes. My best memories always revolved around our sleepovers which included our many trips to Baskin-Robbins for scoops of coconut ice cream (our favorite) and playing poker with the family from my throne (Nanny's lap). As I got older, Nanny's (and Papa's) role in my life changed, but the stability I felt from them always remained the same. They were always there, always available and always made me feel loved unconditionally. But as I reached my mid-twenties, this all started to change. While Nanny was still "there", she wasn't really...
When you hear about Alzheimer's, you often hear about the "stages." This is how the "stages" went for us:
There were little signs at first: lost keys and wallets, giving the cashier at the grocery store a $100 instead of a $20 and not expecting any change, getting "lost" in the mall. Then the signs got bigger: Nanny would vacuum the house (but the vacuum wasn't plugged in). Next came the day of no-pants: My aunt was coming to the house to pick up my grandmother to take her to lunch and Nanny (always very reserved) answered the front door, in a very busy neighborhood, with nothing on but a shirt. Later came refusing to bathe, refusing to eat, and then eventually an inability to walk and speak. Lastly the ability to swallow.
We were very lucky. For us, while the final stage lacked speech and mobility, it certainly didn't lack love. In the moments when my grandmother was lucid, she gave us (me especially) more kisses, winks and hand squeezes than I ever could have hoped for. Her love transcended so many physical and mental barriers and words can't express how grateful I am for this.
During her last hours of her last day, she spent the afternoon taking a nap at home with my grandfather (side by side in their recliners) and passed in her sleep. It was a near perfect ending to a 60 year love story.
I'm here …in MEMORY of my Nanny, Anita Sarle, who suffered from the disease for five years. Alzheimer's robbed her of her ability to walk, to talk, to control her body, and in the end..to live. I'm here in HONOR of my mother and grandfather who cared for her daily until her passing. I'm here in SUPPORT of the family members who mourn, the caretakers who give, the doctors who aid and the researchers who learn. I'm here for everyone who suffers because of this disease. And I'm in HOPE that if we raised enough funds for research...we will find a CURE.