A couple of times each year Papa travels alone from the East Coast to the West Coast to be able to spend time with all of his family. Papa doesn’t like flying, but he needs to travel by air to be able see his children and grandchildren. We book nonstop flights with wheelchair assistance from DC to LA or San Diego and while he won’t admit to being nervous we can see in his behaviors that he is relatively anxious to fly alone. He even starts nervously scratching and will then blame the itch on the rain, or the sun or one of his medications. We try to make everything as easy as we can and this week created a checklist to help reassure Papa that he is healthy and cleared to travel along with making sure he is well packed and prepared for his adventure. Getting him ready reminds me of helping our kids to get ready for swimming or baseball camps, without quite so many doctor visits. Nana used to do all of the coordination and packing so even though Papa assisted us the last time it is not something that is engrained in his mind.
Shopping: Although he has lost a few pounds and he often says, I am watching my figure some of Papa’s clothes just don’t fit like they used to. We took him shopping not only for several new shirts and shorts but a fresh supply of undershirts, shorty pajamas (boxer shorts), and socks for his trip. Papa typically does not like shopping but on this trip he was picking up things off the racks and asking us what we thought and didn’t once mention he wanted to sit down. It was a very successful shopping trip, even if he decided against a new hat. Check.
Doctor: Papa had a pulmonary embolism on a previous long distance flight and is now concerned he will get another one. He had a small amount of swelling in his feet last week so we scheduled an appointment to reassure Papa he is good to go. He also had a pre-emptive ultrasound done to make sure his legs are clear. He is clot free. Check.
ENT: While Papa was at his primary doctor he mentioned he was dizzy which led to an Ear, Nose and Throat referral. Papa has mentioned I can’t do that, I am dizzy for years; in fact he has had sporadic bouts of dizziness for the past 40 year since he was in a car accident and had a major head trauma. I notice that he seems to mention it if he is worried or anxious, or if he doesn’t want to go for our daily walk. Interestingly enough I still make him walk and as soon as we change topic his vertigo seems to resolve itself. But we took him in for this appointment just to make sure it was nothing new. It wasn’t, he is clear. Check.
Dentist: The dentist happened to have an opening for a cleaning this week so we were able to get him in before he travels. This created an Endodontics referral, but we let him know we have scheduled this follow-up for after his return. As long as he has clean teeth and is in no pain he is good for the trip. Check.
Subway: Papa said he was hungry and asked Doug if they could make a quick stop at Subway after they left the dentist. Doug wondered why he hadn’t eaten his lunch at home before they left. What, you can’t eat before going to the dentist. Doug laughed at that and said it isn’t like swimming, Dad; it is ok to eat before you get your teeth cleaned. Huh was all Papa said before he ordered his turkey sub.
Foot Soak: Papa likes to periodically have a pedicure and his nails trimmed. He calls it his foot soak and was happy to have this done yesterday so he would not have to worry about asking someone else to take him while he was on vacation. Now if we could just figure out an easy way to put on his compression socks… Check.
VO5: Papa says he has been using VO5 since the mid 1950’s, and because this is the part of his memory that is the strongest I believe it. Is it just us or is VO5 hard to find? After looking at several stores without success Papa’s granddaughter Christina took him shopping today and they were able to find it at their third stop. Perhaps we should go back and get a few extra boxes. Check.
Medications: All of Papa’s medications come through a mail order pharmacy, except for his eye drops which we pick up locally at our Target Pharmacy. I had ordered ahead and prepared weeks’ worth of his meds for the trip, however the eye drops can only be picked up every 30 days. Even though Papa has a 30 day supply he does not understand why he cannot pick the next bottle up early if the doctor has already sent in a prescription. I went to the pharmacy with him on Monday and we picked up one of the drop prescriptions and explained that for insurance he has to wait to pick up the other one. He asked Doug to take him in on Tuesday and this time the pharmacist explained he had to wait until at least Friday to pick up the prescription (Papa leaves Thursday) but he can go to any Target Pharmacy after that for pickup. Today he was running errands with Christina and had her swing by Target to check once again and hopefully the third time is a charm and he remembers he has enough drops for several weeks and can pick that last bottle up in California. Check.
Audiologist: Papa got new hearing aids months ago and this week we noticed he was saying Huh or What quite frequently. We asked him if his hearing aids seem to be working ok. I think the treble is out. He also says this when he is stressed, but to be on the safe side we wanted to make sure his hearing aids were correctly calibrated for his trip so we schedule a quick visit to the audiologist for an adjustment. Dr. Winehouse also supplied him with several months’ worth of batteries and filters for his hearing aids. Check. Check.
Suitcase: I don’t know what I need, Papa said in frustration. Doug and I pulled out what we thought he might want to bring for the trip and placed it on his bed and hung what we thought would be comfortable for the plane ride and asked him to check. After exchanging one pair of jean shorts for another he decided everything looked pretty good, except for shoes; we had one pair of shoes and one pair of sandals and his slippers. What do you think, should I wear my white shoes? These shoes are his most comfortable only because he has worn them the most and they are conformed to his feet. They are 1 ½ years old and even though he convinced his sister on the last trip they were at least 10 years old and he needed new shoes he always chooses this pair first. We have since been back to New Balance to get several additional pair of 11 ½ EEE shoes in both black and tan so he has shoes in various colors and for all occasions. We told him to wear whatever is most comfortable. Shouldn’t I bring more shoes? Sure, what do you want to bring Papa? What do you think? Can’t I just put more in my suitcase? He doesn’t have a magic bag like Mary Poppins but we fit the tan shoes in his bag along with the sandals and slippers. Check.
Snacks: Papa has an early flight but we want to make sure he has some snacks for the plane. We packed a bagel, a sandwich and a piece of fruit, he always carries a PowerBar or two with him, and of course something chocolate flavored for dessert. Chances are he won’t eat this apple but he will have some Chips Ahoy or Brownie Crisp crumbles on his shirt when he lands. He won’t go hungry. Check.
Bank: We provided Papa with a summary of his accounts and their balances for his wallet so he knows what is where and his response was the usual what do you want me to do with that? He went into the bank today and withdrew cash for the trip and then proceeded to spend some of it on his VO5 and other items he picked up while shopping almost as if that money was going to catch flame and burn a hole in his pocket. Christina diplomatically reminded him that he might want to save his cash for the trip and use his debit card for his last minute local purchases. But he has cash ready and tonight we will make sure he has a couple of smaller bills to tip the wheelchair driver at the airport. Check.
ROMEO: Papa was able to fit in a Retired Old Men Eating Out (ROMEO) breakfast with his church pals this morning before he flies. There is nothing like fellowship and a big breakfast at Bob Evans to curb the nerves. Check.
It has been a busy week. We have fit all of this in along with a couple of trips to Nat’s Park. Papa is exhausted from all of the preparations and he isn’t even there yet. Doug and Christina will take Papa to the airport bright and early tomorrow morning for his flight to San Diego but I have the feeling it is going to take him a couple of days to settle in and get used to another house, another bed and different channels on the TV. After that, he will have a great trip, and packing to come home should be much easier.