The snow was piling high up on Hinkle Mountain, my mother's home, in Nicholas County. The cabin fever she was experiencing came to a fever pitch one day as she announced, "I'm goin' to Florida." Well, the role reversals have began with my siblings and I as we inwardly cringed at the thought of our mom, our sweet little mom, traveling to Florida alone. She and my dad made the trip many times before his death several years ago, but she had never drove it alone.
So I basically offered her my firstborn. Yes, I volunteered my daughter, a graduate student and expert driver/navigator take Granny to Florida. Yes, my daughter, Kristin, was in agreement in order to help out, and as an added bonus, her best college friend lived close by; therefore making it a great granny/granddaughter road trip.
The first leg of the trip began with Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn and many more of the old time country artists crooning their hearts out in my mom's SUV. About Oak Hill, Kristin, usually a mellow, easy-goin' type gal, could handle it no more. "Grandma, yer killin' me." Mom giggled, and with that said some more up-to-date music was added and Kristin took the wheel.
The rest of the trip went as planned and they arrived the next day at the Park for Senior Citizens both with high expectations for their vacation. However, the first few texts I received from Kristin revealed a bit of culture shock as she immersed herself in the lifestyle of the over 65 retirement village.
"Mom, there are little old men in short-shorts and knee socks. I know I'm gonna have nightmares!"
The next text revealed some more. "Mom, I am out taking a jog and I've almost been hit by golf carts many times over! They are everywhere"!
Mom and Kristin were driving around when they pass an enormous building surrounded by scores of cars. Kristin thought a religious crusade of some sort was taking place when mom spoke up and announced, "Oh they're playin' bingo!"
Now many of you probably find very little humor in this, but ya gotta remember, this is all being experienced by a young graduate student on her first adventure with the geriatric way of livin' it up.
All of mom's friends took an instant liking to Kristin and began desiring to fix her up with their wonderful grandsons. One after another said, "Oh! You're not married? You need to meet my grandson! He's such a good boy!" These well-meaning, sweet grandmas felt so sorry for her. I mean to be in your early 20s and not married. This was unheard of in this generation. Their shocked looks turned to pity as they talked amongst themselves about fixing her up. Kristin texted, "They are trying to fix me up with their grandsons and keep telling me what wonderful and good boys they are! I mean, what are they going to do, tell me they might be future serial killers?"
Next they invited her to go to the Chicken Barn - better known as "Bea's" - and she hesitantly agreed. The Chicken Barn was a restaurant in another senior village with a chicken buffet ... all you can eat. The early bird special was the best, so off they went.
"Oh, mom! I'm the only young person here and there are scores of senior citizens eating and wow do I feel out of place." her text comes in.
I couldn't resist, "Kristin, get some pictures of you and your new peeps. You could put this on Facebook!" My mom funny bone was tickled as I pictured my polite, sweet and most gracious daughter in amongst these precious folks. They began inviting her to flea markets, auctions, more information on "available" grandsons and nephews, and more early bird specials.
Well the Chicken Barn adventure ended and mom and Kristin were back at mom's rental unit. Kristin announced she was going to go to Starbucks and work on her online graduate classes.
Grandma looked horrified! "It's getting late," she said with eyes wide.
Kristin replied, "Grandma, it's 5:30!"
Grandma said, "Yes, but it might get dark soon."
Now, to really find humor in this you have to know how very independent this young woman is. Since her beginning college days, she has been a night owl, and went where she wanted and when she wanted. But for that night, she was a good girl and came back by 7:30 p.m.
Even a trip to the grocery store was an experience for Kristin in dodging golf carts - that had the right of way and took it every chance they got. Golf carts buzzed through busy intersections, taking all the great parking places and their good old time, because they have it - time that is.
The two weekends in Florida Kristin went to Clearwater and explored Florida with her best friend from college, Alli, and had a great time in Miami enjoying the sights as they searched for CSI Miami stars and site locations from the show. They ate at an outdoor cafe she had seen on the show and enjoyed conversations with locals and they drove and drove and drove.
Time came, however, for Kristin to fly back to snowy West Virginia and leave her grandma with her friends, the early bird specials, the flea markets, auctions, wonderful unmet grandsons and bingo.
Kristin drove to the Orlando airport, set grandma's GPS to direct her back to the park and placed toll money on the dash for her sweet granny. Grandma drove off and Kristin worried about her. However, had she only known what was awaiting her inside the airport.
Checking in at the airport counter, Kristin became uncomfortable with the looks she was receiving. "I'm sorry miss, but Homeland Security needs to talk to you. You will be detained." "Homeland Security?" Kristin thought. As one after another Homeland Security officers came out and began peppering her with questions, the folks in line behind her began backing away and sideways glancing with one another. There was a code orange already in effect at the airport and announcement after announcement could be heard: "Watch your bags. Leave nothing unattended. Call 911 if you see anything suspicious." Kristin's mind whirled with what on earth could she have done to create such a fuss with national security? The first officer explained, "Your birth last name does not match with your driver's license last name and you aren't married. That is suspicious and a threat to Homeland Security. We will need to escort you to the back room. "
"The back room?" she nervously thought to herself. "I've seen that on television." Kristin's pulse raced as she explained nervously that her dad had died when she was an infant and her mom had remarried years later, thus the reason for the other last name, etc., etc.
So one by one another officer would come out and they would explain to one another, "Well, her dad died, and her mom remarried, etc. etc." Then that officer would explain, "Well, her dad died ..."
Oh my lands! Can you imagine this scene? Travelers continued to back farther and farther away from this threat to national security. Finally, the "big cheese" Homeland Security officer came out from behind closed doors, heard the story and allowed Kristin to board her plane, just in the nick of time.
As she texted me this scenario, after the fact, it absolutely tickled my funny bone once again. I text back, "Did you tell them you are a goody-two-shoes and you've never done anything wrong in your life?" Ha, ha. I mean this is the same kid who, when homeschooling in grade school, wouldn't let herself have recess because she missed a spelling word. "Did you tell them your GPA?" Ha, ha. "And they think you are a threat to Homeland Security?" Oh my! Have I ever had fun with this!
She is home and it feels good to have all three under the same roof for this moment, because I know time is fleeting. Time does not stand still for anyone, and I know Kristin and grandma's bond was made much stronger by their southern excursion together. They talked about everything including "Papaw," now in heaven. Strange how the circle of life continues isn't it? Mom babysat Kristin during my early widowhood days in order for me to teach school. Now Kristin drives mom to Florida and plans to fly back down when grandma is ready to come home and drive her back. I just hope Homeland Security is ready for her next time.
(Kimberly Short Wolfe, MA, is a homeschool mom and the grief counselor and bereavement coordinator for Mountain Hospice. To contact her, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 304-823-3922, ext. 136.)