As a highly independent 30-something, I have learned how to travel quite easily with little fuss; it has become second nature essentially. I know how long each step of the process takes and I push my limits with time and access when I can.
This winter I am flying with my mom and dad (we are headed to Minneapolis to visit my brother and his family) because my mom needs a little extra help with my dad on a longer flight.
Before our flight to Minne, my parents flew into Phoenix to stay for a night. The hotel at which they were staying was not a dog-friendly hotel, but I asked the front desk associate if it would be ok if I brought my dog for therapy for my dad. She was the sweetest! She said yes, but only if I brought the dog to see her too.
When I came back with the dog, she not only stopped and pet my LoLo, she also talked to my dad and was so kind in understanding why he was unable to communicate back. She smiled and said “God Bless” as we left for the airport the next morning, genuinely excited to know that we would be back in a few days.
Getting from home to the airport in an Uber was pretty standard…smooth sailing.
I really didn’t think much about the flight – I knew I would just be there to help however I could and we would be just fine. The logistics were fairly simple and I anticipated a slow pace, so no surprises there.
What I didn’t anticipate was the kindness we would receive from airport and airline employees as well as total strangers.
Upon arriving at the airport and needing a wheelchair and special access forms we were greeted and supported by Chuck, the kindest gentleman who made sure my dad was all set and comfy in his certainly uncomfortable airport wheelchair.
My mom, Chuck, my dad, a sweet little older woman, and I made our way through the bowels of the airport to security. Chuck made sure that I was able to get through the assisted access point with my family (dad’s only supposed to get one assist) so that I didn’t have to go back through the standard security line. Then as I stood next to my dad right before the screening process, doing my best to keep him from getting out of his wheelchair and making a run for it, Chuck took my backpack, coat, purse, and grungy boots and put them on the conveyor so that I could stay by my dad’s side. We were just fine on our own after security, yet he stayed with us and set us up in an optimal position for waiting and boarding. He did this all with a smile and a few jokes. What a pleasure!
Upon reaching the gate, we settled in, ate some lunch (thank goodness for La Grande Orange in the D gates!), and waited a few moments until it was time to board. I wasn’t able to fool the gate agent into letting me go on the plane early with my parents (reminder, dad only gets one assist); although an adorable older woman who was also waiting to pre-board said to me “they should let you!”
As I sat and waited for my B 38 spot to be relevant, a tall middle-aged man approached me and spoke closely in my ear, “were those your parents you were with earlier?”
“Yes,” I nodded.
“Did your dad have a stroke?”
“No. He has young-onset Alzheimer’s,” I replied.
“Well he has such kind and life-filled eyes. God bless you.”
And he walked away.
It was such a sweet and touching moment. And a reminder that we are ALL fighting a battle (I assume he has someone in his life who has had a stroke), and the best we can do is be kind to one another.
On the plane, dad and mom were settled and we had a great flight. The flight attendant checked in on us frequently, always asking if we needed anything special like a lid and straw for my dad’s drink. She never once seemed bothered our put out of her way.
What did I learn?
- Always ask – you never know when you’ll get a yes.
- Don’t downplay the assistance your LOWD needs – getting help makes it so much more enjoyable. Bring a letter from a doctor stating the diagnosis and share with everyone providing service; it makes it a more enjoyable experience for everyone.
- Take a moment to take in the kindness – there is so much out there if you pay attention to it.
Keep up the good work, superheroes!