Surprising my Great-Grandmother: Traveling


Not even thirty seconds in and something’s already burning.

This is a typical start to a Belanger family vacation. We left the house at around 7:30 in the morning. As we pulled out of the neighborhood, we could smell something burning. We figured out it was one of the cell chargers in the car, and unplugged it. Nonetheless, we continued our drive from Maine to New Hampshire.

We got on the bus at 9:00 and began our journey to Boston where we would arrive at Logan Airport. The bus was packed and we had to stop to pick up a few more passengers on the way. The driver made young children sit in their parents’ laps to make more room.

When we arrived at the airport, we went to check in. We did a self-check-in, where we got our boarding passes. We didn’t know which line to go in to check our bags, so we thought we’d ask a worker, who was rude in the process. We could barely understand what she was saying, and all I was able to catch was “You’re not first class, this isn’t your line.” Any time my father tried to ask where we were going, she would repeat the sentence. We eventually walked away and figured it out on our own.

It was now after 11:00 and we were all getting hungry. The boys (my brother and father) decided they wanted pizza and my mother and I chose to split chicken tenders with potato wedges. While my mom’s ordering, I suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, see her going down towards the right. She hit her knees against the counter in front of her and I reached over and caught her arm so she wouldn’t hit the floor. I helped her to stand and asked what happened.

“I lost all feeling and got real dizzy” she told me. My mother’s had five strokes, so this naturally concerned me. I told her to go sit down and paid for our lunch before going to check on her. As most of you know, I work in the hospital on a medical telemetry unit. Most of the patients I get have had strokes, so I knew exactly how to assess a person with symptoms.

Her speech wasn’t slurred as I sat in front of my mother and began asking her questions: are you numb on one side? Are you dizzy? Are you lightheaded? Do you feel weak? Do you have a headache? She answered the questions and I held my hands out to her. “Squeeze my hands” I told her.

Because of her previous strokes, I knew she was already weaker on the left side. Knowing she had fallen towards the right, if she was having a stroke, her right side would be weaker than or similar to the left. I was relieved to find she was at baseline. We finished our lunches and went to our gate.

We boarded the plane when it was time and departed at 12:40. The flight was fine, only about an hour and a half to Detroit. On the way up, a little girl in the seat in front of us started crying. She didn’t want to be buckled, and wanted to look out the window. She was small enough to get away with being in her father’s lap, so he took her and allowed her to look out the window. She calmed down, then.

We landed in Detroit a little behind schedule, and we waited on the plane, worried we’d miss our connecting flight. It was now almost 3:00, and our flight was leaving at 3:20. We made it on time, and they hadn’t even called our zone to board, yet.

Our next flight was long; just under four hours from Detroit to Phoenix. It was fine, but boring. I sat between my mom and a guy who kept rubbing his lips and sniffing his fingers. It was strange, but I shrugged it off; I’ll never see him again, I’m sure. My mom bought me a drink (with my debit card) and handed it to me, shouting “Happy 21st birthday Nik! You deserve it!”

It wasn’t my birthday. And I’m not even twenty, yet. Either way, I could have gotten away with ordering it myself, they weren’t carding, and they didn’t even question when they watched me drinking it. Oh well.

During the last hour of the flight, I’d grown so bored that I was willing to pay the $5 to play a game on the screen. Our last flight was too short for me to waste the money, so when I’d seen it cost, I chose against it. This time, when I looked for a game to play, I learned they were free. WHAT!? I could have been playing games all along?

And so we landed in Phoenix, a little early, at 4:30 (our time, at home, would have been 7:30pm). We went to baggage claim – whereImage we learned Delta ruined my suitcase – and got our luggage. My suitcase was dirty, bent, and the front pocket zipper was broken and the pocket was ripped. I’d never used the suitcase before, and I’d only had it for a little over a year. I expected nothing less, having heard stories of Delta airlines ruining luggage and watching them throw and drop luggage through the plane window.

We hurried to the shuttle, where we would be taken to the rental car place. Getting on the shuttle, we handed our luggage over to the driver, who strategically placed out luggage in the storage available. One of the legs from my suitcase broke off, and the driver looked at us in horror, assuming he’d done it. Before he could apologize, my father informed him that it was probably already broken from baggage claim, and explained how the bag was trashed.

We got to the rental car place, found a car – which was a process in itself – and was on our way to Mesa, Arizona by 5:30; which should only take us about 20-30 minutes. Due to there being three accidents on Route 60, the traffic was horrendous. We had to pull off to go to a gas station, due to all of us being hungry and thirsty and it was making my mother sick, and continued on our way. We finally arrived at my great grandmother’s sometime between 6:30 and 7:00, I’m not too sure what time exactly, and my parents went in first while my brother and I waited.

My great grandmother didn’t know we’d been coming, and my grandmother had been spending the day distracting her and not telling her who was coming, but that someone was. My mother made her scream, and then when my brother and I came in, I made her scream again. I hadn’t seen her since I was six or seven, and I’d only talked with her once. When I did talk to her, she told me I had to fly out to see her because “I only have one lung, get pneumonia every year, and I’m getting old. You never know when I’m going to croak!”

This woman is the most adorable elderly lady I’ve met in my life, and when I’d talked to her, I plainly said “when I have the money and the time off from work and school, I’ll try to come out to see you”, already planning to fly out. I told her this, last night, and she told me I was a “nasty little child” before hugging me and thanking me for coming.

We went to bed at 10:00, which was around 1:00am back home. I was exhausted, but I’m so glad I came out to see her. I’ll be
spending the next week in Arizona with my parents, brother, grandmother and great grandmother. Let’s see who strangles who, first. 


3 thoughts on “Surprising my Great-Grandmother: Traveling

  1. An epic journey! BTW, the dizzy of your mother has could have resulted from all the stress. It’s a chance you’re able to diagnose a stroke!


    • It seems she’s been getting dizzy spells a lot, lately. And she has times she gets real shakey. I’m thinking it’s either from her back problem and maybe something pinched or possibly a blood sugar thing. I want her to get checked for diabetes.


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