This past weekend I had the honor and privilege to go with my grandparents to La Crosse Wisconsin and be a part of sending off my grandpa on an airplane to go visit the Washington Monuments. He was invited to take part in the Freedom Honor Flight that takes veterans from all over the United States on a one-day trip to Washington and back. It was quite the ordeal! What an amazing thing to see so many veterans in one place being honored.
Our trip there was rather interesting. I need to give you a little background on my grandma. She is 88 years old and a complete Spitfire! Sharp as a tack, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I swear she has a memory that is better than mine. She reminds me of Betty White all the way! This is the grandma that once called me up out of the blue one day just to ask me if I ever say the F word. I said “Grandma, I HATE that word!” She said ” Yeah, me too…but every once in a while I say it…you know sometimes I just get f****** pissed” Bahahaha Let’s just say, I almost peed my pants! This is how she is-ALL…..THE….TIME…. So funny! To fill you in on her a bit, she is a breast cancer survivor and wears a wig….she has diabetes and lost one leg below the knee so she wears a prostheses….she takes many, many pills for far too many things for me to list… She has macular degeneration so it is difficult for her to see…however, she can spot a penny on the ground from a mile away?! Go figure! She is stubborn, strong willed, & full of pride! Has a great sense of humor & is the life of any party. She claims that she raised me, Haha because my mom and I lived with her through the beginning years of my life. She gave me my first spanking for not coming out of the kiddie pool, thus making her walk in with her clothes and shoes on to get me. We have a bond like no other, and when she’s gone it is absolutely going to kill me….
We left Menomonie at 5:00 PM. This was supposed to be a two hour trip. We didn’t get to our hotel until 9:30 PM. Traffic was horrible, road construction, and we stopped to eat. Traffic was so slow, that for miles we went about 15 miles an hour. Let me tell you, some pretty interesting conversations happen when you go that slow. Conversations about “John, look at that license plate in front of us….look how small it is…how come it’s so small? Look at it, what’s wrong with it?” The plate had some decorative frame around it, making the plate appear smaller. Grandpa answered “Helen, it’s the SAME size as any other plate!”
Then there’s the radio….oh my that radio! Lord forbid that radio moves off of the station they love. See, they have a van with more bells and whistles than they know what to do with. They have the touchscreen panel. Bad idea for shaky fingers. So of course a button gets pushed and it changes the radio station. Then Grandma asks what highway we are on. Highway 94 Helen…. Oh I thought we were on 53…. No Helen 94…oh. Traffic being so slow we got a few miles down the road and she asks…. What highway are we on now? Highway 94 Helen… Oh, not 53? No Helen 94 same as we were a mile ago… Then she giggles and grins… haha
We stopped to eat at a place called Mo’s diner. First there was no fish fry, and it is Friday and they love a good fish fry on a Friday night. But didn’t want to drive anywhere else to find one. So we ordered Peggy Sue melts… (Which is really just a patty melt), however the onions were raw, not fried so therefore grandma decided that’s why it was called a Peggy Sue and not just a patty melt…and of course grandpa commented on the fact that his burger was definitely NOT 1/3 pound like advertised! Haha
We finally made it to the hotel and unloaded and in bed by 11:00 pm and had to be up at 3:45 am to have breakfast and get on the shuttle to go to the airport. What a short night!
Here we are having breakfast at the hotel. We had waffles, eggs, cereal, toast, yogurt, juice & coffee. Then at 6:00 am we went to the hangar where they had juice, coffee & rolls. My grandpa then got breakfast on the airplane, a box lunch at the monument, and supper on the airplane ride home.
We get to the hangar and get him all checked in. They have a security gate that my grandpa has to go through. My grandma was holding his cane that had a tag on it to get on the plane, while he pushed her in her wheelchair. So I think they thought that my grandma was getting on the plane. I just kind of followed behind. Then at the security counter they said they needed to go through my purse if I was going past this point. I told them I wasn’t going on the plane but they told me they needed to look anyway. So I opened my purse & he kind of took a peek in there, then said “Do you have anything in here, I just have to look.” I pulled out a bottle of peach tea, and he just kind of held my purse open…didn’t empty it or anything. Well, darn good thing he didn’t. When we got back to the hotel later I couldn’t figure out why my purse was so heavy. So I emptied it out on the bed. I about crapped my pants! My son had wanted his haircut before we left so I had my big leather case with about six pairs of scissors in there. Not only that, but I failed to remember that my husband gave me a knife… Yes a KNIFE to keep in my purse in case I ever needed it…. Like I ever carry a knife in my purse, seriously! My grandma said to me, ” Oh my gosh Missy, what would have happened if you went to jail?” I quickly told her, that she would have been right alongside me. Funny part of the story is, my girlfriend told me before we left that if I was going to be with my ” fun” grandma, not to call her for bail money!!!
Anyway, after we snuck through security, we found ourselves sitting pretty much all alone, front and center watching all the veterans board the plane. Once they were all on the plane it was pretty quiet around us. I looked back and saw hundreds of people behind us that were all roped in. They had a red roped off area for the people that weren’t flying. Turns out I guess we weren’t supposed to be in the area that we were. So I looked back and saw all the people and then I ask my grandma if she thought she was the queen of England or something… Sitting up there like we were important. Check out her face on this picture below! It says it all!
We spent the rest of the day shopping, eating out and talking. We had some great, meaningful conversations! We went for Chinese food because grandpa hates it so when her and I get together we always go for Chinese.
Her fortune: Love conquers all!
At 9 pm we went back to the hangar to welcome them back. As we sat there, we spoke with people who had been on this flight in years prior. I guess when they get to Washington, they are saluted by water. The man said they have two fire hydrants one on each side and when the plane lands they shoot waterjets over the airplane. Would have been neat to see. Also I guess they have a police escort all day so they don’t have to stop at stop lights, and get the royal treatment. Apparently people are lined up for miles along the street welcoming them. They had the high school band there playing patriotic music. They had cake, coffee, and drinks for us while we waited. There’s just something about hearing the song God Bless The USA-Proud To Be An American while you are surrounded by all the loved ones of people that are on a plane coming home from visiting the monuments. It was really an indescribable feeling. The cheers when that plane landed and they all got off and hugged their loved ones!!! Whew! Emotional… Made me wonder what it must have been like back in the day when they were coming home from war…. Wow!
The insight I took from this trip was: man, do I have respect and appreciation for how my grandpa is able to take care of my grandma! The fact that he even has the strength to do what he does every day is amazing. The conversations that my grandma and I had I will cherish. The time that I had to spend with her is something I will never forget. As much as I joke about all of the funny things that my grandma does, I wouldn’t change a thing about her. Sometimes when we lose people, we get over it pretty quickly. But my grandma, when she goes I’m not sure I can say that will be the case. So for now, I will take each and every chance I get to spend with her. Not to take any meaning away from the whole point of this weekend-to honor the veterans- but for me this weekend had a different purpose, a chance to connect more with my grandma…and realization of just how blessed I am.