I’m sorry I haven’t written about Steve’s Sacramento trip sooner, but I’m finally getting to it. On March 28th, I took Steve to the airport for his advocacy trip to Sacramento with other members of the Alzheimer’s Association’s local office. As with many things these days, it was an educational trip for both of us.
I got Steve to the local airport shortly after 6:00am. It’s a wonderful, tiny airport, so I pulled up to the curb, and while Steve got out of the car and grabbed his backpack, I ducked inside the airport to see if I saw anyone from the Alzheimer’s Association office. I did not. Hmmm, interesting as I was pretty sure one particular person said he’d be at the ticket counter. (FYI, while typing this I went through my e-mails and I’m not nuts, the person did indeed say they’d be at the ticket counter. I could write an entire blog on the way organizations could improve their dealings with the families of people with any type of dementia!)
I went back to the car, told Steve I didn’t see anyone, but he could probably just go ahead through security. He already had his boarding pass, clearing labeled, for both flights. Stupid me. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had just made a mistake. To get to security, you walk about 20 feet through a door, make a right turn, and head through security. We’ve done this countless times in the past, together, but not on any recent flights from this airport. Steve told me later that he walked through the door, saw a “Do Not Enter” sign, and went back into the building and headed the other way down a hallway and back out of the building to the other security area. The two areas do not connect.
Thankfully, the TSA agent realized Steve was in the wrong place and politely let Steve know what to do instead. Steve got through security and called me to let me know when he was on the plane. I asked if he had seen our primary contact and he said he hadn’t. Steve also said there were a lot of people and he was doing “okay” so I knew he was a bit overwhelmed. I tried not to worry. I’m a very good worrier.
While all this was happening I was driving home. I cleared the airport area and called our contact to let him know I had dropped Steve off at the airport. He told me he was in line for security and wanted to know if he should get out and look for him. I suggested he could just keep an eye out for him. Honestly, being in line for security at this airport is a bit like being in line at the grocery store. If you spent ten minutes getting to the front of the line, the airport would be packed. I really wanted to tell the man to get out of line and go find Steve, but I didn’t, so I was relieved when Steve called, but puzzled that he and the other man hadn’t connected. I found out after Steve got home that he saw a couple that are active with the Alzheimer’s Association. The husband has mild Alzheimer’s, so Steve asked the wife if he could hang out with them and explained that he was there by himself because he wanted to see if he could do it.
Before heading out for the morning’s volunteering, I checked the status of Steve’s flight. It was taxing. Yeah! I checked again when I got to the high school, only a few minutes away, and it was delayed. Yikes! Oh my gosh, maybe Steve got so overwhelmed that the had to turn the flight around and take him off the plane! (Yes, I really thought this.) When my phone didn’t ring, I relaxed and decided everything was okay.
In Southern California, everything went smoothly. The track meet was canceled, allowing our son time to do homework, shower, dress and eat before his concert. I video and audio taped two concerts for the band director, handed the equipment to another parent, and took off for the airport, arriving in the waiting lot just as Steve called to say he was walking off the plane. I arrived at the front of the airport as Steve walked out and waved good-bye to someone from the Alzheimer’s Association. A few minutes later my phone rang to make sure I had Steve. I appreciated that they called to check.
Steve did give his elevator speech, and he said the day was very educational, but it didn’t go as he expected. Steve’s team met with three republican legislators. All three informed them that their votes don’t count either because they are lame ducks or because the democrats are in control and have more than enough votes. One person told them one of the bills they were there talking about was full of potential fraud. Steve’s team was quite upset since they had been told one person was a supporter. Their next stop was the hotel bar where they ran into many other people there on the same trip.
So, from an advocating standpoint, Steve’s trip was not a success. However, from a personal standpoint, Steve’s trip was very successful. He made it through the day with no problem, he met new people, learned about how the government works, and furthered his education by doing a lot of research once he returned home.
Would go on this trip again? Probably not, he’s said, but if he did, he’d go with different expectations and I’d send him with much clearer instructions.