I’m back home in one piece – well, two, actually, since one is detachable – after another successful trip, this time to Ireland. I’m originally from Belfast, where two of my sisters and their families still live, so it was a great ‘homecoming’ reunion for my 70th birthday celebration.
We flew direct from Toronto to Dublin via Aer Lingus, then rented a car for the 2-hour drive to Belfast. Definitely preferable to a long flight to London Heathrow, then transfer to a flight into Belfast – we learned that lesson from the cruise in April! We even paid more for seats with extra leg room, though if that was extra, I shudder to think how little space there was in the rest of the economy seats… haven’t quite reached the point of being prepared to pay double for business class.
Driving to Belfast was easy, as we’ve done it several times before and know all the good places to stop for coffee. We stayed with my sister Ruth and her husband in Holywood; their house is wheelchair-accessible from the previous owner, so we had a ground floor bedroom right next to the bathroom with a walk-in shower complete with shower stool. They had even arranged to borrow a transport wheelchair from the Red Cross (excellent service, all they ask is a donation to the cause), which was really handy when we were out and about for any distance.
The birthday party on the 18th was a big hit, everything I had hoped for and more. My other sister Mary and partner came from Scotland, one niece and her two daughters plus one nephew, one cousin and her husband from England for the weekend. Lots of chit-chat and catching up on the Saturday, which was our 44th wedding anniversary, then the luncheon party on Sunday with close friends from way back, as well as family. An added bonus was the food, which was delicious. The cake was really special, with a picture of two-year-old me on top!
Everyone was fascinated by my new leg and had lots of questions about it. My six-year-old great-niece had only one question for me: “Why do you always wear a skirt, Auntie?” I explained that putting on trousers is a bit of a production, as I have to thread the bionic leg through the trouser leg before attaching the harness to me, then pulling the trousers up over both legs and fastening them. It’s much easier to just pull a skirt over my head once I have the bionic leg attached.
One side benefit of the trip was a reunion lunch with several of my old schoolfriends. Another was a visit to sister Anne’s mother-in-law, who will be 102 in November and still lives at home. That sure kept me from feeling old… my husband even commented it’s the first time he has ever kissed someone who is over 100!
The return journey was uneventful, apart from a flurry of excitement in Dublin Airport as our flight was due to be called. The alarm sounded requiring everyone to evacuate the area immediately, rather difficult for me, as I was “parked” waiting for the wheelchair to come and take me down to board the plane. Fortunately my husband spotted a chair nearby and wheeled me out with the rest of the passengers. It was only a matter of minutes before the all-clear was called; we never did hear what the emergency was. Yet another incentive for me to be able to walk independent of rollator and crutch – very soon now, I hope.