Going with the Flo
I haven’t posted in a long time: life has been complicated with a family crisis, flu, Christmas preparations and all the things that take up time and energy. I promise to post some quilt stuff soon, but in the meantime, I wanted to share a Christmas adventure of expectation, disappointment, hope restored and great joy from small acts of kindness.
Six months ago, Flo tells us she wants to visit her new great-grandchild. “Let’s see if we can make that happen,” I say, thinking that a 97 year old probably shouldn’t be buying green bananas, let alone planning a vacation! Nonetheless, when her daughter Margaret calls and asks if we can arrange for Flo to get to the airport to fly to Alberta for Christmas, I say “sure, we’ll take her.”
So, the flight is booked [with insurance just in case – we’re adventurous, but not foolhardy]. For weeks, Flo reminds us of her upcoming adventure each Sunday, getting more nervous and excited as the big day approached. She is packed, freshly coiffed and waiting anxiously for our arrival on travel day.
“I could hardly sleep,” she says as we adjust her seat belt. “But now I’m on my way and I know you’ll get me there, so I can relax.” A quick stop to buy a virus-filtering mask in case of sniffling on-board neighbours, and we are off for the two-hour drive to Comox well in advance of her flight.
I should have known this was all too easy. My first clue might have been when I ask if she has her passport. “No, it’s expired,” she says. “but I have photo ID and my CareCard.” [British Columbia medical card.] “That’s all you need,” I say.
When we arrive at the terminal, about an hour before time, Flo and I bring suitcase and walker up to the Westjet counter. There, we present Flo’s ID…uh oh! Her “photo ID” is a bus pass. Yikes! 97-year-old, 4’8″, 95 pound Flo is clearly not a threat to national security, but the regulations demand “government issued identification.” Bus passes don’t qualify.
The lovely Westjet lady waits patiently while we go through Flo’s wallet: nothing will do for identification.
“Do you have a passport? Government ID?” the agent asks.
“Yes, but they’re at home and they’re expired.”
“Can you go and get them, you have an hour before the flight?”
“No, she’s from Ladysmith, it would take about 4 hours.”
“We can get her a seat on the last flight tonight.”
“She can’t possibly fly into Edmonton after midnight, she’d be absolutely exhausted.”
“Could you come back tomorrow with the passport and we’ll get her on the flight then?”
Mindful that others are waiting with their ID in hand to check baggage, we move aside to a bench nearby to regroup and consider our options.
“Let’s think about how we can make this work,” I say. “We’ll phone Margaret and tell her you’re delayed. You and I can stay here in Comox overnight, Frank will go get your ID and you can go tomorrow.”
Flo won’t hear of Frank making a four-hour return trip. She seems to shrink before my eyes as all her excitement turns to fatigue and disappointment. Just then, the Westjet lady closes her desk and comes over to us.
Does anyone have keys to your apartment? Can they find your ID?
I talked with my colleague. If someone will get your ID and fax us a copy of it, we’ll accept it for today and allow you to board the flight, but you’ll have to have the original documents to come back from Edmonton.
Flo’s lifetime of meticulous housekeeping pays off: the ID is in a folder with other important papers in an easily accessible spot in her room at LaRosa. Phone calls back and forth to LaRosa staff:
Yes, we have the ID. Yes we’re sending it now. Good luck, Flo!
The fax that arrives is a large black blur. Grimaces from the Westjet folks. Can we try again? Perhaps a larger copy or better resolution? The second is marginally better: a little imagination could match that grey blur with our friend.
Good enough. Let’s get your walker tagged, your luggage loaded and you through security.
I am so relieved when there is no problem as I hesitantly ask if I can accompany Flo into the boarding area. I present passport and my credentials and receive a “companion pass.” [Who knew?] With Flo in a wheelchair, we approach the security people:
This is the one the Westjet people mentioned. Can you walk by yourself, ma’am?
Back straight, head held high, Flo walks unassisted through the scanner, earning a big smile from the normally stern-faced security folks. I follow through security, help her settle in her wheelchair and find a place to wait with other early-boarding passengers.
I’m almost 98-years-old. This is my pastor!
Within minutes, the others adopt Flo as their surrogate grandma for the flight.
It’s okay Pastor, we’ll take care of her.
At the early boarding call, I push the wheelchair up to the door where the Westjet flight attendant waits and I turn to go back through security and home.Once back in Ladysmith, I will FedEx the documents to Edmonton so Flo can board the flight home. But, in that moment, I thank God for the kindness of strangers, bend down, kiss the top of Flo’s head, wish her a Merry Christmas and tell her:
I want to grow up to be you!
God bless. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas season. May God richly bless you as the New Year approaches.
PS: Flo arrived safely in Edmonton, though Westjet is still looking for the basket for her walker. She’ll be flying home with her passport the day after her 98th birthday.