You Think Flying with Baby Is Hard? Try Your 90-Year-Old Mom!

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To all you people who think traveling on an airplane with children is difficult: ha, ha, ha, ha. Just dress 'em up cute, and you're golden. If they are age 5 or so and give them a bag of caramels and a packet of Go Fish cards. Then, when you don't get to sit together, the child can ask the 28 year-old man next to her if he wants to gamble for caramels. Not that her parents ever taught her to gamble, mind you. The child and the man will both be amused the whole flight. Don't ask me how I know this.

But the story today is at the other end of the spectrum. I still followed my credo of dress 'em up cute, but in this case, Mom wore her warmest, prettiest sweater. We want her to have good service, after all.

The flight went pretty well, even though it took a half an hour for her to stare at the pictures of soft drinks and juices and ask me repeatedly what I was going to have. She can't hear on the plane, so she talks loudly, but I just kept pointing to the picture of the Sprite. No caffeine to get over-active systems engaged, thank you.

I always worry Mom will need to go to the bathroom at some inopportune time and, sho’ ‘nuff, in spite of the Sprite, she tugged my sleeve right as the pilot turned final approach.

I told myself not to stress. We descended and turned short final amidst loud comments: “I don’t think I can make it. When the people get off can I go to the bathroom?” There were lots of concerned looks from nearby passengers. They did not know what her problems might entail and they did not want to be caught between some old lady and the bathroom.

However, we landed safely and folks, not surprisingly, got off in record time. This might be a new idea for airplanes: Play a recording of an old person needing to use the bathroom. You think everyone rushes for the door NOW. The Alaska Airlines officials wanted her to get off rather than use the on-board restrooms as the plane had a quick turnaround in Orange County, and they were ready to board passengers for the flight back. I wanted her to get off too, for if she needed help I did not want to be struggling to help her in a cramped stinky airplane restroom with someone pounding on the door to hurry up. Mom does NOT hurry once she's in there.

Mom is no longer able to walk all the way up the aisle, so they came with an aisle chair and that helped. We brought her wheelchair with us, and I was wondering how I was going to push it AND her walker loaded with our carry-ons up the jet way, but the gate agent took us all the way to baggage claim. I can imagine the relief the others were expressing that we were out of there.

My brother Scott told me before we left that he would park and meet me at baggage claim. He was nowhere to be found. I started calling him. He must be just about to walk in, so I wanted to tell him that I was going to take Mom to the restroom so he wouldn’t wonder where I was. I didn’t want to be helping Mom and have to start answering the phone when he called to say he couldn’t find me. I'd probably drop it and accidentally kick it three stalls away. Then of course, I'd never want to touch it again.

When last I reached him, he was at home with his cell phone off! Oops. But his wife Kathy was in her car nearby and came in a jiffy. While I was talking to her, Mom is clamoring about going to the restroom, and here came our bags. I just grabbed them. Not a good idea. I shoulda thought. Now I had 4 suitcases, the carry-ons, the walker and Mom with her purse in her wheelchair.

Baggage Claim and Restrooms

Bags are not to be left unattended, or they will be confiscated, according to the loudspeaker. I was thinking about asking a nice woman standing nearby if she would watch them for me while I took Mom to the bathroom, when my phone rings and it is Kathy wanting to coordinate where to meet. Just at that moment, a baggage handler comes up with a big cart. He wants to know if he can take the bags and where. Poor Mom is clanging like a fire alarm by this time. I'm talking to Mom, Kathy and the baggage handler is asking me questions and no one can really hear.

The baggage handler got us out to the curb. Kathy came in a matter of moments and she said she’d load the car while I ran back inside, pushing Mom in the wheelchair, sweater flapping.

I had brought extra change of clothes, but we didn’t need them. Whew.

We rejoined Kathy and someway, somehow, she had folded and squeezed our load into the car. Hugs and laughs, then she whisked me back to their house. You will never guess what we had for dinner.

Pea soup. No kidding.

Baggage Claim Sign photo via Shutterstock.

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