"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
September 22, 2014
Traveling for the Aged
by Kathryn H. Kidd

Fluffy and I went out of town last week. We didn’t go far. In fact, we only stayed about a half hour away from home, and we were only gone for two nights. But to see us packing, you would have thought we were going to end up in Timbuktu for the summer season.

In fact, as Fluffy packed the car, I heard him mutter a word that I am not accustomed to hearing from my Utah-bred boy. Yes, I heard words like that often in my natal city of New Orleans. New Orleans residents often spoke in words of four letters when I was growing up, and Fluffy's language as he packed the car made me nostalgic for home.

The bad word was not Fluffy's fault. The poor little thing was trying to cram more into a car than was designed to fit into a vehicle. A scooter, a wheelchair, a walker, a parade of medical devices and an assortment of luggage are not designed to fit in a Mercury Sable. Fluffy was trying to do the impossible, and his language slip could not be helped.

It was not the ideal way to start a vacation.

When Fluffy and I first got married, we often took spur-of-the-moment trips out of town. On those occasions, we didn't pack much. We usually took a change of underwear for each day we would be gone, along with a sack to contain the used underwear. I took my contact lens case and my contact lens solution. I also took a backup pair of glasses.

I usually took a nightgown, and we each took one extra shirt other than the one we were wearing, just in case we spilled something on the one we had on.

That was it. Packing took five minutes flat, and we could get everything in a duffel bag or even a paper sack. If we thought about it, we'd each throw a paperback book in the paper sack on the way out the door. We'd rely on the Gideon Bible in the motel room to provide our scriptures (or the Book of Mormon if we were staying in a Marriott property). We didn't need anything else.

When we went out of town last week, this is what we had to deal with:

  • My wheelchair;

  • My walker;

  • My scooter;

  • My scooter batteries;

  • My scooter battery charger;

  • The little basket that goes on the front of my scooter to carry purchases I may make in pharmacies along the way;

  • My morning medications;

  • My afternoon medications;

  • My evening medications;

  • My bedtime medications;

  • Fluffy's bedtime medications;

  • My contact lens paraphernalia;

  • My reading glasses;

  • My long-distance glasses;

  • Fluffy's reading glasses;

  • Tums, just in case I had indigestion;

  • Prilosec, just in case Fluffy had heartburn;

  • My pain medication, just in case Something Really Bad Happened;

  • My C-PAP machine (which I probably don’t need anymore, but which I haven’t had a doctor tell me I don’t need anymore, so I have to keep using);

  • An extension cord in case we needed one for the C-PAP machine;

  • Wet wipes;

  • My compression stockings;

  • The nylon sleeve that Fluffy uses to put the compression stockings on my legs;

  • The Crocs I need to put on in the middle of the night if I need to use the restroom and have to put on shoes so my unfeeling feet don’t slip on the floors.

All this is in addition to our Kindles and the charger for them, and our cameras and the battery chargers for them, and our clothing, and our food, and all the other little things that make a time-share unit a home.

Fluffy spent a good two to three hours assembling this stuff, and then another half-hour cramming it in the car, all in preparation for our half-hour drive to National Harbor.

By the time he got in the car, he was not in his usual cheery frame of mind. And then, less than forty minutes later, he had to unpack all that and put it in our timeshare unit. I could not do a thing to help him, being immobile as I am.

It’s times like this when Fluffy earns his designation as Perpetual Employee of the Month.

Fluffy, trying hard to maintain some semblance of patience as we waited for the air-conditioning system in our timeshare unit to be repaired so we could check in with all our medical paraphernalia.

I guess it’s probably overkill to admit that it took at least an hour after we finally arrived at our destination before he was his normal sunny self.

Fluffy unwound with a few games of spider solitaire after unpacking a ton and a half of old person’s paraphernalia.

When we were young, we used to get so annoyed with Fluffy’s parents, who used to sit in their condo and let moss grow on them. We could not understand why they did absolutely nothing with their lives when they were not tied down by a job, and when they had all the money they needed to go out and see the world.

Now we know. They didn’t have the energy to see the world and to pack. They may have had the energy to do one or the other. They did not have the energy to do both.

Indeed, Fluffy and I have long remained partially packed for long trips. We have “trip kits” that contain all our regular toiletries, but “regular toiletries” are things such as toothpaste and toothbrushes and shampoo — things that are not included on the list I just named.

Now that we’re old, it looks as though we’re going to need an additional “elderly trip kit” containing all the things on that bulleted list.

It’s one thing to have an upstairs wheelchair, a main floor wheelchair, a wheelchair that stays in the car to be used for field trips, and a wheelchair that exists solely to transport me from the house to the car and back again when I’m wearing long dresses that are not safe for the walker. We have recently crossed that threshold and have become a four-wheelchair family.

But to have everything else in duplicate and all packed together to comprise our “elderly trip kit” would give us a bundle that would have to be lifted by a crane and carried in a flatbed truck. Somehow that takes the spontaneity out of travel.

We eventually were glad we did all that packing. We eventually used almost everything that Fluffy packed for us, with the exception of the Tums and the Prilosec and my pain medication — things we were happy we didn’t need but were nevertheless glad that Fluffy packed. If we hadn’t packed them, there would have been a desperate emergency. We know that from experience.

We know that as time passes, Fluffy and I are only going to get older. The packing list is only going to get longer. I have no idea what items will be added to it. I used to have to carry an oxygen concentrator with me — a huge machine that took most of the backseat of our car. I don’t have to use it anymore, thank goodness. But as we get older, who knows?

I think often of Ecclesiastes 12. I suspect it’s a chapter that is mostly unknown to young people these days. Do people who are under forty know that the quivering “keepers of the house” are shaking arms, the “strong men” are flailing legs, the “grinders” are missing teeth, and the darkened windows, of course, are eyes that no longer see?

These days, Fluffy and I are two of those decaying houses. Our friends are deteriorating neighborhoods. We are whole subdivisions that are falling apart, and all the Ben-Gay in the world is only going to prolong the inevitable.

But when we go to that “long home” that Ecclesiastes 12 mentions, it will not be the unhappy occasion that Solomon envisioned. There may be mourning here, but there will be no packing lists and no pulled muscles as someone tries to put more paraphernalia in an ancient Mercury Sable than it was ever designed to hold.

On the contrary, we will step across to our new home unencumbered from the pains and ailments of this old world. We will be free of the sorrows that pull on us here. We will be so light — enlightened — that we may well feel as though we are flying, because the things that held us back are holding us back no longer.

As much as I love this world, and as much as I do not want to leave it, I’m still excited to step over to the other side when my appointed time comes. I am not afraid of death. And the best part is, I won’t need to pack anything except for a life well lived.

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About Kathryn H. Kidd

Kathryn H. Kidd has been writing fiction, nonfiction, and "anything for money" longer than most of her readers have even been alive. She has something to say on every topic, and the possibility that her opinions may be dead wrong has never stopped her from expressing them at every opportunity.

A native of New Orleans, Kathy grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana. She attended Brigham Young University as a generic Protestant, having left the Episcopal Church when she was eight because that church didn't believe what she did. She joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a BYU junior, finally overcoming her natural stubbornness because she wanted a patriarchal blessing and couldn't get one unless she was a member of the Church. She was baptized on a Saturday and received her patriarchal blessing two days later.

She married Clark L. Kidd, who appears in her columns as "Fluffy," more than thirty-five years ago. They are the authors of numerous LDS-related books, the most popular of which is A Convert's Guide to Mormon Life.

A former managing editor for Meridian Magazine, Kathy moderated a weekly column ("Circle of Sisters") for Meridian until she was derailed by illness in December of 2012. However, her biggest claim to fame is that she co-authored Lovelock with Orson Scott Card. Lovelock has been translated into Spanish and Polish, which would be a little more gratifying than it actually is if Kathy had been referred to by her real name and not "Kathryn Kerr" on the cover of the Polish version.

Kathy has her own website, www.planetkathy.com, where she hopes to get back to writing a weekday blog once she recovers from being dysfunctional. Her entries recount her adventures and misadventures with Fluffy, who heroically allows himself to be used as fodder for her columns at every possible opportunity.

Kathy spent seven years as a teacher of the Young Women in her ward, until she was recently released. She has not yet gotten used to interacting with the adults, and suspects it may take another seven years. A long-time home teacher with her husband, Clark, they have home taught the same family since 1988. The two of them have been temple workers since 1995, serving in the Washington D.C. Temple.

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