"" Writer's Wanderings: Don's Excellent Adventure

Friday, August 04, 2017

Don's Excellent Adventure

Our youngest son is developmentally handicapped. We knew that when we adopted him. He has been a wonder to watch as he has grown, matured and become his own man. He lives independently with a little help and has a full time job that he loves and has been a part of the company where he works for ten years now. He just turned 39 and a several weeks ago announced to us that he was going to visit his brother in Florida. My first thought was, it will never happen. It can't. There's no way we can go with him right now and he certainly can't fly by himself all that way. Boy, was I wrong.

My Florida son and daughter-in-law and their kids were ready to welcome him with open arms so the only thing in his way was getting to Florida. My husband researched flights to find a direct one to Fort Lauderdale. The airport there is smaller and less complicated than Miami and he would be less likely to get lost. Spirit Airline had a flight at the right price and times and it was direct. We booked it for him.

While researching, Bob also checked on whether we could accompany him to the gate and if our FL son could meet him at the gate down there. It was better than hiring someone else which is what you do for children or others who need help in navigating airports. That would have made him feel less independent and he was so excited about making his own way there. Spirit informed him that one of us could get a gate pass from the ticket counter if we presented an ID. Problem solved.

The big day arrived. Since my husband was away at a church camp for preteens, I was the one to take Don and see him off. Now, I'm a mom, through and through. I didn't sleep well the night before imagining all sorts of things that could go wrong. What if they frisked him in TSA? Would he be upset? What if the plane was forced to land somewhere else? Would he get lost at an unfamiliar airport? What if a stranger befriended him on the plane and then took advantage of him asking for money or stealing his phone--the only connection we would have to him if he wandered off track somewhere? Like I said, I'm a mom.

I picked Don up and briefed him once again on the way to the airport about how the trip through the airport and TSA would go. He had followed instructions so far keeping his backpack free of anything forbidden and only putting his ID in his pocket. We had to hustle to the ticket counter because it took so long to find a parking spot in the garage. There was no problem checking in and in a couple of minutes, I had a gate pass.

We followed instructions in the TSA line and except for a short stop by a TSA agent who checked out anyone with cargo pants including Don we were on our way. Don didn't flinch when the agent checked his cargo pockets. I was proud of him. There was no time for the planned lunch before boarding so I bought him a sandwich, chips and a drink reminding him that he would have to wait until the stewards told him he could turn on electronics and lower his tray table.

And then the big moment. I had to let go. He was on his way.

Not quite three hours later came the dreaded text from the FL son. The TSA line was extremely long and he was stuck in it and had received a message that the plane was early. My heart skipped a beat. Thankfully I could hold on to the thought that I'd told Don to call him if he wasn't at the gate. But then I realized that his brother couldn't answer the phone if he was going through the TSA line.

A little later I got a message from Don. My iPhone printed out the voice message as "I found the bedframe." What it actually meant was Don had found Baggage Claim on his own and eventually his brother found him.

He spent a wonderful five days in Florida, saw his first alligators, went fishing, visited Key West and the Miami Zoo and got to know his nieces and nephew a little better. Then it was time to come home.

Tropical storm Emily decided to slow things down a bit. The plane was almost an hour late but Don still made it home without incident and claimed that the airplane ride was not bumpy. Bob went out to the gate and met him and on the drive to his apartment, all the details of the excellent adventure poured out. So what's the next adventure, we asked? He wasn't sure but I hope he doesn't decide he wants to visit his other brother in Tokyo. My heart wouldn't survive that trip.

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