I moved my stepdad from Florida, a numbing ordeal and a glimpse of life changes ahead | Opinion

My 87-year-old stepdad had had three strokes. He was alone in Florida, the mecca for New Englanders.

We grew up in snowy, hilly, tree-entombed Connecticut. Florida is a northern snowbirds’ haven, a place for winter sufferers on the northeastern seaboard — land of warmth, alligators, low taxes, high temperatures, oceans on both coasts and cheaper housing.

Twenty-five sunny years passed for him there — as did a handful of his Florida friends. Some moved on, with the onset of aging, back to wherever home was. Others passed to the retired dance hall in the sky. There are few benefits to making it to one’s later years when your friends don’t.

My stepdad was in rehab in Florida and we, the kids, decided it was time to get him closer to one of us. He chose my sister as she is in Connecticut and that is where we grew up. My sister flew to Florida and did all the medical and legal heavy lifting to set the stage for moving him, plus selling his house and car.

Moving at any time is an ominous, life-readjusting undertaking for many reasons: role reversal, financial realities, time constraints, medical issues, bureaucracy, bureaucratic constraints — and then more bureaucratic issues, at every turn. But when you’re elderly… it’s not so nice.

My role: Fly from California. Get our stepdad out of rehab, put him on a plane, deliver him to the assisted living residence, and stay a few nights with him to help in the transition. Bureaucracy required us to be in Connecticut on a certain day and our tickets were purchased to comply.

The rehab doctor discharging him insisted on an oxygen unit accompanying him. I had 12 hours to get that. We got lost on the ride to the Tampa airport. My stepdad needed a walker, which we had. The airline provided a super service, a wheelchair, shorter routes to security and expedited help through security.

It would have been impossible without them. (JetBlue, thank you.)

However, things did not continue going so well, even before the flight. A passenger had passed away on the flight we needed to get on. The expired passenger was wheeled off on a stretcher with a medical team hammering on his heart. Not so nice to see.

Required protocols began and the flight departure time lengthened. People became fidgety. Eventually we got on the plane, but as we taxied down the runway, two different women lost their cool and became aggressive and obnoxious.

The plane turned around heading back to the terminal with them being threatened with arrest. The passengers booed, cat-called and threatened them back to an acceptable level of human behavior. We resumed our flight.

Anyway, it has been a numbing ordeal, a glimpse of a life change, a look down that infamous tunnel with the dim light at the end. I suspect it will be my stepdad’s last flight.

And once he was officially settled in the residence, I did something I have never done before. I gave my stepdad a shower.

How long for each of us before the soap goes from our hands to our children’s hands?

Not too long. Not too long.

Paul H. Karrer is a teacher who taught in Samoa, Korea, England, California and Connecticut. His podcast is called Teacher Tails.