The travel agent looked me as I tottered across to her desk. “Wherever you’re going, use a wheel chair at the airports,” she said. “And get one for your wife at the same time!”
I was horrified. Wheelchairs are for the…, you know, ex-walkers, has-beens, washed ups. Not for me. I still walk. It may look funny and it hurts like hell, but I walk. Of course her suggestion became an instant family war cry: “If you insist on travelling to Australia you have to use wheelchairs in the airports!”
And so it was. And it turned out to be the best thing we did on this trip. Some invisible notation on our computerized booking set things in motion. At every airport the counter agent took one look at her computer, sent out a magic signal and in a flash, help was at our side, gripping our elbows as though we were about to fall over.
The system worked like a dream. We sailed along secret passageways, took unknown shortcuts and went through ‘entry-forbidden’ doors. We found ourselves in ‘staff only’ elevators and careened around airports like two oldies on their last legs. People scooted out of the way, glanced at us and whispered “Shame, just look at them,” as we glided past with averted eyes. We hardly slowed down for passport control where the lines looked as though they had been there for years; our pushers hit the brakes at security and gave the armed men a split second to look at us and decide we were long past terrorism; in the departure lounges we were seated in the front row and laughed all the way along the boarding sleeves as our wheelchairs led the other passengers onto the planes. Of course we made sure no one saw us smiling. The wheel chair service was so good that some of our ‘pushers’ actually thanked us for letting them help us!
With all this special treatment my back behaved as though it was born to the noble art of classy air travel. It is hard at work now on a scheme to get us upgraded from cattle-class to first-class. Wheelchairs? It’s the only way to travel!
The retirement home staged their annual Purim party on Sunday evening. The invitation read 7:00 sharp and by 6:20 the dining room was packed. One or two hopefuls who arrived on time wandered around looking for vacant chairs. The mountain of electronic sound equipment with 2 human operators and a singer provided a variety of music throughout the evening and there was a heavy flow of soft drinks and sugarless cakes to the tables. A few enterprising Goldenagers remembered their good old days and smuggled in bottles of wine under their clothes.
The costumes were dazzling. The dress theme was “The Sixties” and many of us didn’t have to dress up – our everyday clothes are from the Sixties anyway. Violently colored wigs are all the rage this season and many of the women were topped in psychedelic pinks, greens and blues.
The party started off with a selection of dancing. A short, agile and super-energetic woman was in the forefront and for the first half an hour none of us recognized her. She had on a spiky gold wig, a shiny pink mask with narrow eye-slits, a top with flashy gold sequins and a short, um, very short skirt and black tights. She twirled and twisted her way around the dance floor, moving from one partner to another.
“Who is she?” we asked each other as we watched her in action.
We were stunned to see her bouncing. No one in this retirement home bounces. We keep both eyes strictly on our weak points, meaning hips, knees and ankles. Bouncing is out! And then her mask slipped and her face was revealed.
“It’s Gilda, you know, from the corner apartment on the sixth floor!
“C’mon, you know her. She’s usually in a wheel chair. The one with the attractive Nepalese caregiver! She must be about 90!”
“Impossible! Look at her go!”
“Actually, she’s 97,” someone at our table said. “I’m her neighbor and she asked me to help her to fill in some forms for her bank one day. Born in 1917. Saw it with my own eyes!”
We watched in disbelief, our mouths wide open as she whirled, twisted and bounced her way through the exhausted line of partners. It was a stunning exhibition of 60’s dancing. The band took it as a challenge and the faster she danced the faster the beat of the music.
Shortly before 9pm her Nepalese caregiver came into the dining room. She was pushing a wheelchair. She weaved her way through the dancers, gently took Gilda’s arm, led her off the dance-floor, settled her into the seat, snuggled a blanket around her and wheeled her out. The party was over.