On the road . . . still Print
Grand Mom
Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009 -- 1:00 AM
Grand Mom by Audrey Mettel Fixmer

Too old to travel? Who? Me? Don't even suggest it. I'll find a way to get to that grandson's wedding or that resort in a warmer climate no matter what. Of course, we must listen to our aging bodies and adapt to new ways to get around.

We were in our mid 60s and newly retired when we first became aware of that. My husband and I were boarding a flight to Puerto Rico when the older lady in front of us asked Bob if he would hoist her bag into the overhead compartment. As he reached up to do so, his pants fell down. That's when we realized he had to start wearing suspenders.

In our 70s when our arthritis got bad, we learned the importance of wearing a smile and carrying a big stick . . . a cane. It's like a magic wand; they let you board first and people behind you offer to lift your carry-on to the overhead. Chivalry is not dead!

Graduation

I realized I had graduated to a wheelchair transport myself after a few trips trying to run behind Bob's wheelchair, which was pushed by a young guy apparently training for the Olympics.

Last summer I didn't want to miss the local farmers' market, so I let Medicare buy me a walker. Pockets to stuff my produce in and handles to give me balance. What a convenience that was!

Airport wheelchairs are another touch of magic. When you order one in advance of your arrival, you are treated like royalty. They will push you right to the head of the line. (Keep your sunglasses on and everyone will think you are a celebrity).

Of course, they will still scan every inch of you. Even though I told them about my artificial knees, I had to go through the scanner over and over until my "secret weapon" was revealed: a rosary in my pocket!

The return flight is even better. The attendant will take you right to the baggage and even pull your bags off the belt when you point to them. The tip is whatever you can afford, but that kind of help merits my generosity and prayers.

A great deal

My daughter Kris recently made a business trip to Las Vegas, and suggested I come along to share her two-bedroom condo. And then my other kids all chipped in to buy me all of the extras: show tickets, great food, and a day at the spa for pampering, as my birthday gift. What a deal!

Again, Kris borrowed a wheel chair. "Remember, Mother, a wheelchair is not confining, it is liberating." And this one had two footrests! (Recall the hotel wheelchair in New York where I had a twisted ride? In a one-footer?)

Borrowing another wheelchair for our tour through the Hoover Dam, I sat in comfort while Kris got her exercise without going to the health club.

After the first five minutes or so of following along with 30 or 40 members of our group, the nice tour guide announced that from that point on everyone should allow "those two lovely ladies from Wisconsin with the wheelchair" to always go to the head of the line.

Kris and I looked at each other suppressing a laugh. Somebody must have squealed on us after Kris charged me into the crowd and accidentally hit a lady in her ankle. Later we agreed it was a good idea. Otherwise Kris and I might have been the only ones leaving there without a limp.

Companions

So there you are. Suspenders, canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, all of them Liberating. Oh, and did I mention Companion? I prefer that to Caregiver. And of course, I wouldn't do an adventure like this without one.

On our return flight home we boarded first (of course) and sat in the first seat. As we settled in and watched the other 100 or more passengers board, one lady stopped by our seat to say to Kris, "God bless you for taking care of your mother!" I second the motion.

Meanwhile, with the help of these aides, I will travel as long as I can. They will keep my world large, postponing the time when it will shrink to one building or, God forbid, one room.

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