Mummy-sitting in Portugal

21 Jun
Great weather & great company in Portugal

Great weather & great company in Portugal

6 months in Asia was a long time, even though it was too short (I nearly jumped on a special Lufthansa offer to Singapore before realism got the better of me). So after my Asian time-out I planned to reconnect with family-life and take my mum to visit my sister & co in Portugal. After the world-travel, it was time for small-travel.

My mother, with a respectable 79 years on her clock, is not used to traveling (she hardly gets out of the village) so I offered to take her to Portugal – and coach her through airports, check-in, border controls, luggage belts and metal detectors (which invariably go off on my mum’s corset). I got my mum a free plane ticket with my Brussels Airlines miles (the little perks of an international job). After all she did for me all her life, I feel it’s payback time.

Unadapted airports...

Unadapted airports...

It’s only when traveling with a person with a slower pace that you realize that escalators are not all that ‘old people-friendly’ (stopping, observing and retro-ceding before the jump onto the chosen step, followed by clutching onto the hand rail and my arm – and why on Earth do those handrails go faster than the stairs unbalancing grannies???). The kilometers between terminals are not so digestible either (especially not at 7am in the morning) not for my mum, but I could do without as well. So now I understand why the airlines have this official check-in time AT LEAST one hour before the flight (and it’s for the athletic amongst us that we can aim for 40 minutes).

Having booked a free ticket with miles for my mother but a cheap (paying) ticket for me. It was only late that I found out that my mum was seated in B-flex class (the sort of business class left over of what used to be Belgian national airline Sabena/SN before it went bust) whereas I was put in B-light class (the new look of what was low-cost Virgin Express before the merge with SN). So my mum could take 30kg luggage instead of 20kg (as if she would be able to carry that), she was allowed to check in 30 minutes before the flight at a special counter (as if she could reach the gate in half an hour…) whereas I would have to wait with the ‘common people’ at least one hour before the flight, etc.

Holidays under the Portuguese sun...

Holidays under the Portuguese sun...

The consequence was that my mum was seated in the front of the plane (all alone in business class – it was a Sunday 7 o’clock flight and it seems business people don’t do Sunday mornings), and I was hidden behind the curtain separating the cheapies from the fancies. I gathered my courage and put on my most charming smile to go and ask the cabin crew (no ‘family’ on this flight, but maybe my charm also works on women?) whether I could sit next to my mum? I wouldn’t want food, drinks, newspapers or an extra plastic smile, but just to be with my mum to help out a bit. “But nobody’s sitting in business class” they replied, so I had to point out that my mother WAS sitting there hidden behind the row of seats in front of her. After 60 people do get smaller so with her 79 years the world around her seems to grow bigger every day.

  • The stewardesses told me that it was no problem to sit next to my mum – and I even got a meal with a blink of the eye – thank you Brussels Airlines ;-)

Getting older (VIPs see also here)

Different generations, different chairs (grandniece, sister, mum)

Different generations, different chairs (grandniece, sister, mum)

It shows that my mum is getting older. Rheumatism is only getting worse, being extremely vulnerable to the cold (yep, she can feel the change of weather in her bones). She starts forgetting things and tells the same stories 2, 3, 4 times (not sure if I should tell her or not). Her left foot doesn’t come much off the ground anymore, which complicates putting shoes & socks on and off, or getting in and out a bathtub, and she fell a few times already when getting off the bike (because the foot didn’t want to move over the frame fast enough)…

So I’m going to move in with her in our old house in the village for a while, to be around her and keep her company (but also I rented out my flat in Brussels, so I have nowhere else to go – killing two birds with one stone ;-).

What when I'll be too old for this hat?

What when I'll be too old for this hat?

It definitely makes me think about getting older – how do I see myself in 30-40 years? I’ve been quite an independent person so the biggest difficulty for me would be to depend on other people (and anyway, who would I depend on, not having a family of my own?). It must be difficult to see your possibilities and capacities shrivel away, just like your skin and body (maybe that explains the many beach pics on my blog – as long as I can…). And worst of all: bye bye brain…

But at the same time there’s the old folks organizations (booming business): they go on outings, play cards or petanque, organize swimming or gymnastics sessions, they have theatre and singing groups, etc. I can imagine jumping into those with both feet… except if I’d feel they are just patronizing or trying to keep us busy… (because the old sods are not able to do anything else anyway…)

Enjoy while you can ;-)

Enjoy while you can ;-)

What I wouldn’t mind at all though is the time once you retire: whole days of doing what you want – finally having time to see my movie collection and read my books, take out longer periods of time for traveling (although not alone anymore, nor for 6 months ;-), go to sauna and relax, get engrossed in some fun projects, hang out with friends and family, make myself at home at home,…

  • Or maybe I shouldn’t wait with this till I’m 65 (the current retirement age in Belgium – which might be raised by the time I get there)! SO:

Carpe Diem – Seize the day, as they say OR as one of those chain emails goes

  • Work as if you need no money
  • Dance as if nobody’s watching
  • Play as if you’d always win
  • Live every day as if it were your last
  • Love as if you were never hurt before…

2 Responses to “Mummy-sitting in Portugal”

  1. Xiang 19 July 2009 at 13:54 #

    I like your reflection about the time when you become old. But basically it will not be a big problem for you since there is a good welfare system in Belgium. Hence all you need to think about is how to chill out in a (free) wheelchair.
    You are a good writer!!

  2. travelony 25 July 2009 at 12:19 #

    Thanx for the comment – great to know people are actually reading what i write – hehe ;-)

    Not sure if I would want a wheelchair – even if it is free… Although it would be a ‘new experience’ – hehe.

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