Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How to Lose a Grandma

The theme of Ma's trip to Italy must be getting lost. After 17 days with a mix of sitting around reading, visiting local sights, and learning to fry chicken and make apple butter (skills I probably should have learned a couple of decades ago), Ma's departure day arrived. We left my house three and half hours early to make the 30 minute, freeway drive and hit complete gridlock, moving only 2 miles in an HOUR! At the first available opportunity, I took an exit to turn around, and at that point, we had under two hours before departure to take...the long way 'round, eerily reminiscent of our Amalfi Coast attempt. We were able to go 90 miles/hour in an 80 kilometers/hour zone, and with five miles left to go...another gridlock. Nooooooooooo!

We screeched up to the airport one hour before her flight departed, I pretty much threw her luggage onto the sidewalk, and then watched my 84 year old grandmother muscle two, 40 pound suitcases into the terminal. Meanwhile, I drove as fast as possible to the nearest parking, grabbed her carry on suitcase and sprinted into the terminal, only to find my grandmother at the counter, all checked in and smiley, watching her second suitcase disappear on the conveyer belt with nary a mention of extra baggage fees. That was enough stress for awhile, but more was to come.

She had only a one hour layover in Paris, and we'd arranged a wheelchair transfer for the Paris layover. I don't know if that was a blessing or a curse as that's how we lost her. She always knew exactly where she was, which leads to a somewhat existential argument about the word "lost" which hurts my brain. Regardless, we were concerned about her making her flight in Paris. When my aunt called the airline after the Paris flight had departed and found that "there was a problem," and "she's not on the flight," and "we provided her a hotel voucher," there was cause for concern. We had no way of contacting her, no way of knowing if she'd found her hotel, no way of knowing if she'd be able to call, no knowledge of when she'd get on another flight. I wish I knew the name of the hotel where she'd stayed the night because I'd love to give them some publicity! It turns out that upon check-in, when my grandmother asked how she could reach her family in the U.S. because her cell phone didn't have any reception, the hotel turned on the phone in her room and allowed her to make several calls, at no charge, to her sister (who was picking her up at the airport) and my aunt. Air France, meanwhile, took full responsibility for her and escorted her with wheelchairs everywhere, until she was in the baggage area of the Atlanta airport. With flight delays and the like, she'd ended up with 1 hour 15 minutes on the ground in Paris, most of that time spent waiting for her wheelchair transfer. This waiting is what caused her to miss the flight. But from what I've heard from my aunt, Air France was wonderful in taking care of her. Thank you, Air France, although I was already imagining my trip to Paris to search for my lost grandma. But we'll get there soon...stay tuned!

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