41: The Perfect Solution

41: The Perfect Solution

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Caregivers

The Perfect Solution

The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works is the family.

~Lee Iacocca

“Honey, I miss you and all the children,” Mom said, calling from her small apartment in Wisconsin to my home in California. “I miss you, too, Mom. I’ll see if I can get up there soon.” She had lots of friends in the senior living complex, but she craved being with family, as all mothers do. And to be honest, I loved those warm hugs Mom so generously doled out. I wished there was a way to combine seeing Mom with seeing all the children and grandchildren at the same time, but Mom’s apartment was so tiny that I had to blow up an air mattress to sleep on in the living room.

I went online, found a flight, and clicked the “purchase” button. It jumped to the next screen and up popped an advertisement for a special Internet deal on a hotel suite.

I clicked on the ad. Three nights with two double beds, a separate living room with a sofa, television, and even a round table with four chairs for dining. It had a bathroom and a small refrigerator, microwave, and coffee maker. And to top it off, it came with free breakfast each morning and fresh chocolate chip cookies and milk at night. “You’ve got to be kidding,” I said out loud when I looked at the price. It was affordable. My mind started whirring. Take Mom to a hotel, right there in her own city? But Mom’s apartment was a perfectly good place to stay. Why rent a room at a hotel?

Then I thought “Why not?” And at these prices, maybe my brother and his kids and my two sons and their kids could join us.

Flutters of excitement bubbled up as I punched in her number. “Mom, you’ll need to pack a weekend bag. I’m taking you on a mini vacation.”

“What? Where?”

“Right there near you. We’re going to stay three nights in a hotel suite. They even have a pool.” I held my breath. At 80, she got around quite well with her walker, but would she want to pack a bag and check into a strange place?

“I can’t remember the last time I stayed at a hotel. That sounds like fun. Would it be just the two of us?”

“I was thinking about inviting all the family—your grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and the newest great-grandbaby.”

“A regular family reunion! I’ll prepare food to bring along.”

“This is a vacation for you, Mom. We’ll pick up snacks and eat out for meals.”

Over the next few weeks, Mom was like a little kid. “When are you going to get here? What time can we go to the hotel?” I loved hearing the excitement in her voice. I flew in late on a Thursday night. We couldn’t check in until the next afternoon, but Mom couldn’t stop looking at her watch as we picked up a few things at the store the next morning. Finally, it was time.

“Oh, honey!” she exclaimed as we walked into our suite. “This is beautiful. And so big!”

My cell phone rang. “We’re at the front desk. What room are you in?” my brother asked. A few minutes later, they bounded down the hall. “We’re here!” the grandchildren cried out, the tiny grandbaby in a stroller. Mom doled out kisses and hugs. Soon my two sons arrived with more great-grandchildren in tow. The kids instantly picked up where they left off. “Let’s go play video games,” one said. After everyone unpacked, we went out for a fish fry, and later, the adults kept an eye on the kids as they splashed in the pool. “Hey, guys,” I hollered as I pulled out my digital camera, “get together in the shallow end.” Mom beamed as she watched her family, all together again and around her.

The next morning, we met downstairs for breakfast. The kids chose from a variety of cereal, fruity yogurts, chocolate milk, and orange juice. Colton was especially fond of the chocolate-covered donuts. Mom loved the fresh, made-to-order pancakes with maple syrup.

“Can we go in the pool, Daddy?” Amanda said to my brother.

“Sure,” he said. “Just let me finish my coffee, and I’ll supervise.”

Our day started with a frolicking game of foam football, and Mom even took a dip in the hot tub wearing her turquoise-blue bathing suit. I captured the action on my digital camera after the teens helped me figure out how to take video. After joining Mom at a table where she was drying off, I whispered, “Look, there’s the new baby taking her first dip in the water.” Mom’s great-grandchild giggled and splashed in her bright yellow floatie as her grandpa held her tight.

We had remembered to grab Mom’s digital picture frame, and granddaughter Kayla loaded it with photos that Mom could watch in a slide show, and even helped me download video from the digital camera to my laptop.

Saturday afternoon we called a truce to the water. “Everyone up to our suite for a movie,” I called out. The living room turned into our own personal theater where we spread out on the sofa, chairs, and floor with bags of microwave popcorn, sodas and snacks, and laughed and giggled at the antics on the screen.

Later that evening, the adults reminisced. “Remember when we’d get together for backyard summer barbecues, fall leaf-raking parties, and ham and rolls after church on Sunday?” my brother said. “No one has a place big enough for everyone to get together anymore. The kids have missed being around each other, and I’ve missed it, too. This vacation has been perfect. And just think—we don’t have to rake leaves or do dishes!”

Too soon, it was time for everyone to check out. We all hugged and kissed goodbye in the parking lot to shouts of “Let’s do this again,” and “What a great weekend.” Mom and I walked back to our suite to finish packing and then drove the 10 minutes to Mom’s apartment. She unpacked her picture frame and then turned to me. “Thank you, sweetie, for bringing me to a beautiful hotel and for gathering the family together. We’ve made some wonderful new memories, haven’t we?”

I hugged her warmly. “I love you, Mom.”

She laid her hands gently against my checks. “I love you, too.”

Mom and I had been doubly blessed. We both got more than we could have ever hoped for: togetherness with family in a whole new way. And it warmed my heart to see her so happy.

We had so much fun that the next year we did it again—and the year after that, too. It’s shaped up to be an awesome annual tradition.

~B.J. Taylor

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