Friday, October 15, 2010

On September 23, my 3 sisters and I set out on an adventure to Portland to celebrate our brother, Stan’s 90th birthday. We had planned the trip for quite some time, and were excited that our plans had come to fruition. I really made the day for the Expedia employee who booked our flight and motel reservations when he asked for the names and birthdates of the travelers. He was astounded when I told him they were: Barbara Tingey, 87: Lola Christensen, 84: Shirleen Anderson, 75, and myself, 70 – and that another brother, Hollis Johnson, 81 would be joining us to help celebrate our other brother’s 90th birthday. He kept laughing and saying, Wow!”

We met at the airport and after successfully negotiation through the kiosk ticketing and with boarding passes in hand, we proceeded to security. No problem – well, maybe just a little - first the officers pulled Barbara’s suitcase off to one side, opened it, and began to inspect its contents. Then Lola set off the alarm and was pulled off to the other side, positioned in the “spread eagle” and was scanned with the wand and patted down. I was helplessly trying to pull their items off the conveyer belt as I giggled and hunted for my camera. Too late for photos, but I’m sure you can picture it in your mind. We all had a good laugh over our two 80’s “terrorist sisters.”

Our flight was good and we arrived on schedule at PDX. Of course, we had no idea how we were going to get from the airport to Calaroga! We started asking people as we pulled our suitcases along, and the Lord placed angels to take care of us. We found out that MAX, the Portland light-rail system goes right to the convention center by our motel and that since we are “honored citizens” we could ride for only $1. So – off we went through the airport dragging our suitcases behind us.

When we got off MAX, we looked around and started for the address of the motel, but came to a dead end. Again, there was a security person parked at the corner who asked us where we were going and gave us directions. We had to go back the way we had come and around by another street. As we trekked up the sidewalk, we sang, “For some must push and some must pull.” Finally, we found our destination, unloaded our baggage, and walked over to see Stan in time to eat dinner with him. We were literally in Calaroga’s back yard. We phoned Hollis to let him know about MAX.
The next day, we settled in and ate breakfast at the motel. Then we descended on Stan and his apartment. We did some cleaning and sorting there hoping to make things easier. We also found Walgreen’s and made a few purchases that we needed for the open house. Everyone at Calaroga was so helpful and seemed so happy that we were there. I hadn’t slept well, and my stomach was churning, put I pressed on! We met with Kim, the activities director and one of the charge nurses, Patti, who were both knowledgeable and willing to assist in any way. The room appeared to be great, and plans were going well. We ate with Stan again and met a friend of his, Henry Clark, an LDS man who lives there. After dinner, as we were walking back to the elevator, we heard singing and there was a group who gets together every Friday night to enjoy just singing old songs. Of course, we had to join in! The piano player, Charlotte, was wonderful, playing anything requested by ear. Their last song was, “God Bless America” and it was really touching to see them all stand, remove their hats, and put their hands over their hearts. These people really love their country! We joined in with tears in our eyes. Afterward, as they were leaving, we began singing, “Days of Summer Glory” impromptu. They all cheered and clapped. What fun! When we entered the elevator, there was Hollis! So we all greeted and visited and were happy to be together!

Saturday, Stan arranged for his friend, Dennis, to drive us around in a van to see some sites. We saw Stan’s old house and neighborhood, drove through Portland, and stopped at the Rose Garden for photos. We ate at a sweet little sidewalk restaurant, and it was all very beautiful and relaxing. In the evening, I just couldn’t eat, but went to the library and tried to find some things on the internet. Then we just talked and sang and reminisced about those good old days. It was good for me to be with them, because I was so small when they were at home (Stan & Barbara were gone before I was born or only just a baby) that I really didn’t know a lot of things. Now I feel like I am a real part of the family. I still don’t feel well, but hope I can sleep and my stomach will settle down.

Sunday – the REALLY BIG DAY! Stan had arranged with his friend, who arranged with another friend to come and pick all of us up for church. It took 2 cars to get us there, but we arrived just as they were singing the opening song. It was their testimony meeting, and they may be few in numbers, but they were strong in spirit! It was an outstanding and inspirational meeting, and we all hoped Stan could feel the spirit because it was so strong. What a magnificent experience to be in that wonderful meeting with my 2 brothers and 3 sisters! After Sacrament meeting, we were again taken back to Calaroga so we could get ready for the open house. I am feeling just a little better, but not well, and just praying things will go well. AND IT DID! We had all brought photos from home and displayed them around the room. We also had a sheet for notes from the guests to Stan. The room was set up beautifully, the refreshments were attractively arranged and delicious to the taste. There was a heaping fruit plate, an assortment of cheeses and crackers, sugar-free cookies, fruit punch, coffee & tea – and it was almost all gone. We took only a little fruit and cheese home to Stan’s apartment. We counted 36 guests besides the family. I arranged for Charlotte to come in and play the piano, and that really brightened things up. Hollis took the mic and welcomed and thanked the guests, we sang “Happy Birthday” and then the sisters sang again, “Days of Summer Glory.” Stan also spoke, and the whole affair was OUTSTANDING!! We spent the evening in Stan’s room singing and singing and telling jokes and stories. It was heart-warming for all of us!

Monday – the day we have to finish all we need to do! We started off with a breakfast at the Cadallic CafĂ© – again going in 2 cars, which was great. We made another trip to Walgreen’s, arranged with maintenance and moved furniture. I just had an idea that things would look better and be easier for Stan if we moved his bed and some other pieces of furniture – and it turned out SO GOOD! We also arranged to have them clean his carpet and talked more with the nurse about some things they could do to make it easier for everyone. We finished sorting, put everything away, and made a file for him to help keep his paperwork straight. In the evening, we shared our last meal and last night together. I can finally eat, but can’t say that I am really hungry. I feel really good, though about what we have enjoyed and accomplished during our stay. We may just have to do it again sometime soon!!!