My two cousins in Minnesota sent me the money so I could fly to Minnesota recently to be with my Aunt Clara for her 98 birthday. A friend in Connecticut supplemented that to pay for my motel room.

Of course, I was thrilled to death at the prospect of sharing this monumental time with her. But, I'm afraid to fly and just the thought of it made me sick.

I was a nervous wreck and had no idea where to start so I called a local travel agency.

When I advised the lady that I was disabled and would need assistance to get on and off the plane, she told me to call the airlines.

That was not the answer I expected from a professional and the fare that she quoted me for one of the airlines was out of my budget.

It was then that I decided that seniors can do anything if they put their mind to it.

That being the case, I got on the Internet and started my own search for a flight from Oakland to St. Paul. Oakland is just easier for me to fly out of, and I also found a place to park that was very reasonable. It took a bit of research but I found an airline that was half the cost of what the agency told me and it also offered special services for handicapped people.

I ordered my tickets, picked my seat for each flight, then started a list of things I needed to pack.

The airline I chose was wonderful to me; it picked me up in a wheelchair at the door of the airport. Took me and my luggage to the proper desk, got my baggage checked and my boarding pass, then wheeled me to security, and right up to the door of my flight.

An airline attendant put me in another wheelchair and pushed me right to the door of the plane.

There a stewardess helped me to my seat before anyone else was allowed on the plane.

When disembarking, someone was there with a wheelchair to take me to my next flight or the baggage area.

It was the same on each of their flights going and returning.

My cousin Dennis picked me up at the airport and took me straight to a restaurant to get some real food in my stomach.

The airline snacks of pretzels just don't fill you up.

He hadn't had supper either, so we really enjoyed our hot meal.

Of course, I hit some black ice when we got back to his car, but I caught myself and didn't fall.

He then took me to my motel room, and told me he would pick me up the next morning to be with my beloved Aunt Clara.

It was hard to go to sleep in a strange bed and two hours earlier than I was used to, but I finally did. The getting up so much earlier than usual was something I didn't get the hang of during my stay there.

I quickly learned the difference between wet water and black ice and found that my choice of shoes was all wrong for Minnesota weather.

I guess that falls under the live and learn rule by experience.

Both of my cousins, Dennis and Glen, took turns taking us around for meals and to see the sights. Aunt Clara was amazing, as she only used a cane or one of her son's arms to get around the places we went to. Here she is days away from being 98 and she's in better physical shape than I am.

She ended up having three birthday parties to celebrate this fabulous occasion.

The first was at her favorite restaurant the day before her birthday as that was the last day for that place to be open.

The second was on her birthday in a side room of the church after the services were over.

Then the third one was later that evening, when we had dinner at Dennis' home and then over to Glen's home for the birthday cake.

My last day there was spent at her spotless apartment in an assisted living complex.

We talked about everything and reminisced about all the fun things that had occurred when the rest of our relatives were still alive.

Even though we were talked out by the time Dennis came to take me to the airport, it was so painful to leave her.

I left a large piece of my heart with her as we had our last hugs and kisses.

Arriving back at Oakland, I got the shuttle to the lot where my car was parked.

A nice employee saw me struggling with my walker, purse and suitcase and offered me a ride to my car. I gratefully got in his cart while he loaded my luggage on the back.

We got to my car only to find that the battery was dead, so he got a battery to jump mine and stayed with me until my battery had charged enough.

I followed him back inside to pay for the five days I'd parked there only to find that I'd lost my parking ticket and the coupon for the cheaper parking.

I showed him my flight ticket out of Oakland to prove when I'd left and of course he knew when I got back.

Bless his heart, he gave me the discounted rate and I promised to tell all my friends to park there in the future.

So seniors can make their own flight and room reservations, and travel to all parts of the world by using the Internet.

A native of Minnesota, Carol Olson grew up in South Dakota and Walnut Creek and now lives in Pittsburg. She can be reached at carolleeolson@aol.com.