Tarah is doing a study abroad in Jerusalem this semester. My Mom's dad, Grandpa*, has had a desire to go visit the Holy Land before he dies**. When he heard that Tarah was going to Jerusalem he decided to make his trip there as well and surprise her. He looked up a Church sponsored tour group, Discovery XA, and made arrangements to join their tours of Petra, the Holy Land and Egypt. He called my mom and told her about it, swearing her to secrecy. Months later she asked to tell her husband, Eldon. Grandpa said it was okay to tell Eldon. Eldon said to Mom, 'You should go with him!' Mom didn't think it was in the budget, even though it would be fun. When my brother was in town visiting they called Grandpa to say hi. Eldon mentioned the trip and asked if Grandpa was excited. Grandpa said he was but he'd like it more if Eldon and Mom were coming with. 'Ah hah!', says Eldon. He had work obligations and couldn't go, but Mom was free. Grandpa had open heart surgery a few months ago. Mom agrees to go with Grandpa as a caretaker. She still can't tell anyone else though. So she arranges to go to Florida*** for a horse training thing****. She e-mails everyone telling us about her upcoming trip and mentions that she might be away from a computer for a while. Then she leaves the horse thing early and goes to Grandpa's. They pack everything and head to the airport. When they are unloading the luggage from the car, Grandpa decided he's not going to go. His chest is hurting and he does not want to take chances overseas. It's a little last minute and Grandma and Mom try to persuade him to go and check in and if he still does not feel good to let them know. When he tell s them h already has his patch (medicine) on and he's still feeling off, Grandma agrees that he should put his health first. Off they drive. Mom is left by herself at the airport. She calls Eldon and explains the situation then decides to go by herself. Eldon then calls me and asks if I'd like to go and take my Grandpa's place in the tour group. I do and four days later I'm in a plane to Israel. I missed the Petra portion of the trip. Eldon did an amazing job of contacting Grandpa, Discovery XA (Jim and Carol) and the airlines while I got a passport, packed and found babysitters for Jaedyn. Jim and Carol, the group leaders, knew I was coming and had told everyone else while Mom was asleep on the bus. Mom had no idea I was coming! She thought she would just go and have a great time, pick up some fun Christmas gifts, take lots of pictures for Grandpa... and surprise Tarah for Grandpa. I was in JFK Airport looking for Mormon type people who were flying to Tel Avive on my flight. The problem was that when yo are flying to Tel Avive, most of the passengers are Jewish... and they looked conservatively dressed and religious. Every time I found someone from the group, the lady would be wearing a low cut top or the guy was wearing a yarmulke. It was distressing. There was air sickness involved. When I landed I was supposed to look for a guy holding a sign for Jim Gee - Mormon Group. There were no Mormon's on my flight and no guy holding a sign. I looked and looked. Then I asked about it at the Information desk. The gals there had no idea. The other people were leaving in their tour groups or with family. Finally I was directed to look outside customs and check with another information desk if I still could not find anyone. I walked out of customs and they sigh holder was right there. With a group of conservatively dressed people who were not wearing yarmulkes. I cried a little bit, I was so relieved. We waited around for more people and headed out to our Hotel. I left my bag in Mom's room and went to gift shop to hide until dinner when I would surprise her. Then when Mom's group got back from a day of wandering the Old City, Jerusalem, she found someone's bags had been delivered to her room. She went to the front desk to get the problem 'fixed'. They told her that she was booked in a shared room. She explained that was because her dad was planning on coming but had backed out at the last moment. There shouldn't be someone there. A porter had obviously put some other traveler's belongings into her room and they would be worried when they found their stuff missing. Carol saw what was happening and came to the gift shop where I was hiding out and said, ' you might not want to wait until dinner to surprise your mom.' That's when I came up behind her and touched her shoulder. She turned around and, it took her a few minutes, screamed when she recognized me. She was SO surprised. We hugged and cried for a few minutes. Too bad no one else in the group was around. It would have made for some priceless pictures! We met with the group, and did introductions over dinner. After dinner was a group meeting, we got name tags and after that we went to bed. Mom and I stayed up late talking. She was so happy I was there and told me all about her time in Petra.
* Original name, huh? I like it better than pet names for grandparents.
** Like a bucket list, but he's been around since before bucket lists.
*** Where Grandpa lives.
**** She and Emma do Parelli.