The trip to Dallas was an overwhelming success!
It began with my arrival at National Airport and my happiness to discover the TSA pre-check notation on my boarding pass, which allowed me to avoid the long security line. It was also my first time on Virgin America airline. Everyone was very friendly!! The entire staff wore very cool bright red uniforms too. The gate area was awesome with almost every seat having an electrical outlet!!! No more searching for wall outlets in the terminal!
The plane itself was great too!! Lots of leg room, and tv monitors on every seat!! Their safety video is one of the best ever made!!
There was one small matter about my flight however!! I thought I was going to the huge Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) airport BUT turns out the ticket I purchased was to DAL as in Dallas Love Field. Uh oh!! DFW was only 12 min from my hotel. I wondered how far away DAL was. But I didn’t panic, and after checking with Google Maps, it was only 22 min to my hotel !! Woo Hoo!! This was another first because I’d never been to Love Field!! BUT I can honestly say it won’t be my last!! The airport was gorgeous!! It had unique stores and even a museum!! And the shuttle bus ride to the rental car lot was 2 min as opposed to the average 10 min over at DFW. I loved it!! Not to mention the ticket was more than $300 cheaper than anything going to DFW, so my client is happy too!! It was one of the best “accidental” purchases I’ve ever made.
I’ve been to Dallas many times, having spent weeks at a time there during my Corporate America days, but I don’t remember the hotels bring as fancy as the Hilton I stayed in less than 5 min from my speaking engagement!! I thoroughly enjoyed chilling in my hotel room for two hours before heading to Arden Courts in Arlington TX for the event. The room had a very Zen-like feel to it.
When I arrived at Arden Courts, I was relaxed and energized!! Like all of the Arden Courts folks, the Arlington staff was beyond welcoming! There were hugs and high fives all-around! I hadn’t even started, yet talks were already underway for me to return to Dallas and to make a stop in San Antonio as well! I’m excited!!
Dinner was fabulous and I mingled with and signed books for the staff and guests as they ate. I grabbed a few bites of dinner too before starting the presentation. One of the female attendees had alerted me that her mom was an Arden Courts resident and would probably try to wander in during the presentation. I thanked her for the heads up. There’ve been other times where residents have attempted to attend the presentations before being tenderly led away by a staff member. The heads-up I had been given turned into reality about halfway through my presentation when the woman’s mom appeared at the door to the community room. But for the first time ever…. A true ruckus unfolded. The woman yelled and screamed and demanded to be let into the room. Several different staff members tried calmly to appease the woman to no avail even as they tried to get her away from the door. Several staff members in the room left temporarily to try to help. Her daughter was sitting about 50 feet from me and burst into tears as she listened to her mom yell, scream and cry. Several other attendees began to cry as well in true empathy for the situation caused by this horrific disease.
I stopped the presentation briefly because I was about to approach the “humor is healing” part of my presentation. It just wasn’t the right moment to discuss humor. Instead, I went to the woman in tears and we hugged and held hands. We’ve ALL been there with this disease!! Several other attendees appeared to be consoling each other and a few appeared to be praying. It was the First time my presentation had ever been interrupted for more than a few seconds.
Out in the hall a doctor appeared and the woman finally sat down with the doctor and the yelling and crying stopped. I asked my audience if it was ok to continue and everyone clapped! They then roared with laughter as I told some of the funniest stories about my mom! In spite of the brief interruption I finished on time and then answered more than 20 minutes of questions. As the woman’s daughter got ready to leave, she came up and told me how special I am and thanked me for being so understanding about her mom. I explained to her that her mom’s outburst could have been ANY one of our loved ones and that it wasn’t a problem at all.
Just as I had done with the Chicago staff four weeks ago, I hung out and talked with the Arlington staff too for about 30 minutes. One of the staff members gave me several cookies to take back to the hotel. As I was starting to leave, the woman who had caused all of the ruckus called out to me from where she was sitting with a staff member. “Where are you going with those cookies?” She asked. I asked if she wanted some and she said “yes, come sit right here!” So I did. She proceeded to eat all of the cookies, but we had the most awesome time together!! It was the First time I had ever engaged with a resident for an extended period of time.
I learned that to finally get the woman to calm down during my presentation they had told her I worked for the government and was having an important meeting which required a top secret clearance so she couldn’t attend. She shared with me that she didn’t know I was important and giving a big speech, but that they had told her she caused a huge ruckus while I spoke which she didn’t remember. She said “I didn’t mean to, I just wanted to come in to see if you knew what you were talking about!” I laughed hysterically and she let me know that I was a good person and she really liked my cookies. We spent about 20 minutes of the most “real” moments I’ve spent in quite a while.
The staff gave me a stack of brownies to take with me to replace the cookies that my new friend had eaten. As I finally got up to leave, my friend announced that I should “come back again and bring more cookies!!” If my eyes had been closed I would have sworn I was talking to my Mom! I told her I would return and she added “don’t forget!” Hmmmm. Given all that this disease robs people of, not forgetting is something we would all love to promise. But we can’t ….. So instead, I simply said “take care!” and headed for my car as my eyes filled with tears. “Don’t Forget” could clearly be the title of my book in large part due to its irony.
As I returned to Love Field this morning, I had another TSA Pre-check! The first time ever I been lucky enough to have it on both segments of my trip! It’s was truly a blessing because the regular security line looked a mile long! This was truly an amazing 24 hours of Firsts!
Loretta, yet another powerful post; replete with passion and poignancy. 24 hours of firsts, indeed, was that. Thank you especially for your tender portrayal of your encounter and interactions with the woman in the audience AND with her mother. Her eating all of your cookies and her desire to come to your talk to discern whether you knew what you were talking about are priceless vignettes in the oft otherwise bleak existence of dementia patients and their loved ones and care givers. Again and as always, thank you.