40’s Freedom Flight for Alzheimer’s Awareness

This column is a revamping of one that appeared in the weekly local newspaper, the Prospect-News, when I shared a story about my first flight. That flight, and my first glamour shots, and a magnificent shopping excursion in the largest mall in America, and the hospitality of a brother -and-sister-in-law gave me so much to talk about with Mom. Except I couldn’t, well, I did, but she didn’t talk back She couldn’t recall my name, or that I was her oldest child, or even a relative, much less share in the joy of the celebration of a birthday.

40’s Freedom Flight

To keep my spirits soaring I launched into my fifth decade with a plan to fly from St. Louis to Minneapolis. I arrived at the airport two hours early to properly prepare myself for this monumental event. It was supposed to be my calming down time, deep breathing time, prayer time.

Instead, it was knotting up time, complete with sweaty palms and shallow breaths. As I stared at the Northwest monstrosity I had paid to ride, I remember hearing, “Pre-boarding for those with special needs, Northwest Flight 504, Gate…” Mothers with babies and all the paraphernalia to comfort those babies started the trek. I wished for someone to hold my hand who carried a bag full of daiquiris and a copy of The Little Engine That Could.

As a mob swelled around the attendant, my mind clutched the meaning of a person with special needs. That included me, surely! I needed to be in that pre-boarding line! I corkscrewed my way through the crowd and admitted to the attendant that I was a jittery first-time flyer. She was youthful and unsympathetic, but she believed me and I began the pre-boarding march.

This pterodactyl I walked into the belly of was not as I imagined it would be. How could something so huge lack so much space on the inside? Getting into my window seat in the back of the plane was like getting into the glove compartment of the family car. – looks pretty good up front but what we want is always crammed any- old – way in the back corner. The miniscule window pane I had envisioned as my picture window to the heavens framed only the wing.

The wing and I hit it off right away, best friends by the time the plane was in the air. I knew every wrinkle, crease, discoloration and habit, and liked her just the way she was – attached – and hoped she never changed.

My birdhouse view of the horizon was hardly breathtaking. Upon liftoff I glimpsed the slick floodwaters of the Mississippi between blinks and then the clouds obscured everything but my new best friend, so I took pictures of her for my album of firsts. The landing 90 minutes later was smooth and routine, but I touched down only momentarily, recharging to soar higher with each new first.

This June – Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month – consider making simple life changes to ensure you can continue to experience your own list of firsts. Think of all that my mother missed in her life, and all I could not share with her from mine. The following three suggestions are taken from a list published by the Awareness group.
BREAK A SWEAT – Turns out what is good for the heart is also good for the brain.
BUTT OUT – If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, try to stop. It is implicated as having a role in cognitive decline.
HEADS UP – Reduce risk of injury to the head. Wear a seatbelt, and a helmet if riding bikes or playing contact sports.

Mom took her final freedom flight in 2008. I like the idea she knows about all my adventures now.

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About gleefulee

Retired after 33 years of teaching English and French (one year in private school in Memphis, TN and the rest in public school in Doniphan, MO. Enjoying new adventures - all those things I put off for lack of time, energy, now I can try them! Pottery, writing, traveling, camping, kayaking, dancing, listening to some of the best live music ever, and making passionate, lively new friendships. All christened with an appreciation for great red wine! Created and operated KC's on the Current, then sold it and managed it for new owners. Now totally retired and looking for my summers to be full of fun as well! Born and raised in St. Louis, MO
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