Monday, July 26, 2010

Travels with G'ma

Getting old has its ups and downs.  Flying with an obviously old person does, too.  This trip, though, was mostly ups.

She was able to walk through the Tucson airport with her walker; no need for the wheelchair I'd reserved from Southwest.  I'd packed us into one carry-on and a large purse; G'ma had her own purse for tissues, wallet and lipstick.  It was nice to see her open her wallet and provide her license to the ticket agent.  She's not been asked for id in a long, long time and her smile was contagious.  She struggled to get it out of the plastic compartment, but refused all offers of help.  No on rushed her - "Take your time.  It's fine.  There's no hurry."  I watched her visibly relax as the words of assurance flooded over her personal space.  There was more hustle and bustle than she's comfortable with these days, but the calmness of the TSA agent assuaged her anxiety.  I was grateful.  The agent was non-plussed.  "No worries.  I'm not doing anything special."  Ah, but she was.  Perhaps her matter-of-fact attitude can be bottled?

G'ma chose the window seat in the second row, and fought with the seat belt mechanism as the other passengers filed in after us.  Did you ever wonder who needed the instructions provided by the flight attendants on the operation of the flip-lid-seat-belt-locking-mechanism?  It's G'ma.  I sat on my hands (literally) and tried to avoid offering her assistance.  She was laughing at herself, arguing with herself, encouraging herself and congratulating herself when she finally got it clasped.  I opened my book.  We were going to be fine.

LAX is not as elderly-friendly as is TIA, Tucson's sleepy airport.  It's huge and the confusion caused by the foot traffic and undecipherable audio announcements was evident in G'ma's attitude, which suddenly changed from happy traveler to bewildered old lady.  We did have a wheelchair at that end, and once we got into the cab things were back to normal.  She was critiquing the driver's road manners and marveling at the number of ultra-orthodox Jews leaving the multitude of synagogues in Baldwin Park.  She asked then answered the where are we and why are we here and who is he, again questions she'd been focused upon on the flight.  Perhaps the anxiety of travel has sparked her mental functions.  I've thought for a long time that living with Daddooooo's exuberant personality had kept her fresher than she was able to maintain once he died.  Maybe I'm right.

The Hollywood Roosevelt has hosted Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant and tomorrow's post will show you what our fun looked like. Our ADA, handicapped accessible room was large and luxurious and everything two weary, nap needing travelers desired.  Brother arrived an hour after we did, and we all closed our eyes for a while before we dressed and taxied to the wedding.

There were steps.  Lots and lots of steps.  Even discarding the heels she couldn't walk in ("What is wrong with me?  Why am I slipping?  This is not good") didn't help.  Between the valet, the security guard, Brother and me she climbed more than she has in the last 2 years.  And she survived.

Perhaps this is the lesson to be learned from taking this trip.  I think that I can push her to expand her horizons, to go out in public and allow her innate sense of self to overcome her laziness and desire to be catered to.  My offers of help were rebuffed if there were people watching.  Bellmen held doors, and she smiled and thanked them for helping "an old lady enjoy herself."  She bristled when waiters asked if she needed help reading the menu - "I can still read" - and moved from taxi to dinner to reception to hotel with a smile and more energy than I've seen in months.  The groom's father hadn't seen G'ma in two years, after having lived 10 miles from her for the last decade.  He noticed no changes at all.  "You  look great!" was all it took to make her smile from head to toe.

We are going to be doing a lot more traveling, I think.  This was fun.

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