By Susan Ramirez
By now, you may be wondering why there is article titled The Five Foot Two Ninja? It’s actually about my momma, Berta Villamor. More about the Five Foot Two Ninja shortly…
Momma was born in 1938 in El Vedado, an urban neighborhood in Havana, Cuba. She fled to the United States with my dad, Antonio, and sister, Barbie, in December 1965. The came on one of the Freedom Flights in search of the American dream and freedom from Castro’s Communist regime.
She is an amazing mother, friend, role model and confidant who has been battling with Alzheimer’s disease for over eight years. We shared a love of many things together; cooking, gardening, music, fashion and movies to name a few. Now keep in mind, there were times that we clashed.
Like most mother-daughter relationships, it wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Hence the Five Foot Two Ninja nickname that was affectionately given to her by a childhood friend on one of those occasions. Despite the times we wouldn’t see eye to eye, we had a very close and loving bond.
My mom is the strongest, kindest, most well-respected, elegant, graceful and loving woman that I know. She was an incredibly talented seamstress, mezzo-soprano and spent most of her life caring for and inspiring others. All the neighborhood kids and adults alike knew and loved my mom.
This horrible disease has taken all of that away from her in the blink of an eye.
Back in 2010 or so, I noticed that momma would start telling me a story or past current event as if she just heard about it. She would end every conversation with, “Can you believe that?” Initially, I would reply, “Yes mom, you mentioned it yesterday.”
After the third time this happened, something told me not to correct her because it was very out of character. Instead, I listened intently to the details again as if I was just learning about it myself and when we hung up, I immediately thought, she should not be living at home alone.
The next day over lunch, I suggested that she move in with me so that we can keep each other company. Although she was starting to show signs of memory loss and/or dementia, at that time, she was still very headstrong and strong willed. She said thank you but no way.
“I have no reason to move from our family home in Miami, we have been here since 1969 and I intend to die here.”
Needless to say, I put my then home in Broward up for rent, packed up my stuff and moved back in to our family home to keep a close eye and accompany her on errands, doctors’ appointments, etc. Fast forward to 2023, her once brilliant and creative mind has sadly diminished because of Alzheimer’s disease. She is still at our family home, only now she is completely bedridden, in a vegetative state and under 24/7 care by caring and warm-hearted home health aides we were blessed to find approximately 8 years ago. She is also under Catholic Hospice care.
Alzheimer’s has hit so close to home and we have seen so many wonderful people close to us in addition to my mom impacted by this disease. My piano teacher Estela Santis and my husband’s Aunt Sofie have slowly deteriorated before our very eyes. Because of this we chose the Alzheimer’s Association Southeast Florida Chapter as our favorite local non-profit organization to rock and fundraise for.
On November 10, 2023, I am very excited and proud to be fundraising and rocking’ to end Alzheimer’s with our band, Exit Left at the Second Annual Law Rocks Miami 2023 at the Miami Beach Bandshell.
If you have questions or need support, the Alzheimer’s Association 24/7 Helpline is available at 800.272.3900 or visit alz.org.