Whew! After having raised three children and being a grandparent to three grandchildren, I thought I was prepared for just about anything. I have to say that I had to dig in the depths of my memories for those poignant moments when we traveled with small children. Maybe ignorance was bliss because I never really stressed too much because my philosophy was always – if I forgot something, there are stores where we are going. Besides, I always packed as if we weren’t going to see food or water for 24 hours.
Well, traveling with an adult with dementia is a whole new experience. I battled with myself over when I would tell her and decided 48 hours was a good point so I gently told mom that we were leaving my house and going back to California. One of the areas mom’s dementia has hit hard is her geography. She has no clue how far away anything is but she knew we had to pack. So, out came the suitcase – which was my other reason for having to tell her.
I packed. She unpacked. I packed again. She unpacked again, but thought she’d pack her sheets. Yup, and the third time, I simply took the suitcase and put it somewhere she would not look (I am a slow learner sometimes!). The packing was really not the issue but all the stuff she had hoarded and accumulated over the last few months. Wads and wads of tissue, piles of napkins, pens galore, half eaten packages of cookies, plastic shopping bags, rubber bands, and a host of other things that I ended up throwing out. She loves shoes so she was sad that I didn’t pack her pretty sandals or one of her three pairs of walking shoes. She was a petulant little old lady that I had to keep calm because we had to be in the car by 3:30am on Monday morning.
The airport/plane experience was extremely interesting. Up to this point, my sister would drop her off and pick her up so this would be my first time doing air travel with mom. She instinctively acted frail and needy when I asked for assistance to the gate. Dragging an 84-year-old woman down three escalators, a shuttle, and long walkways to the gate was not looking especially easy when she’d want to stop at every restroom she’d see – so out came a wheelchair and she became someone else! All of a sudden she looked old – she hung her head and limped in and out of the thing. My mom, the practiced, seasoned, traveler!
We had to switch planes in Denver so our gracious airline hosts had a wheelchair waiting at the door. I had to laugh out loud. She declined the wheelchair and practically sprinted to our next gate with me jogging after her with our bags going – go left! go right! Needless to say, we made it.