It all started with a pair of Ferragamo shoes. My 80-something mom has a bit of a vain streak and this trip was no exception. She had a beautiful outfit picked out for a family event, but our flight was delayed, and we no longer had time to swing by the hotel first to change. Mom was fine wearing her traveling clothes until she got a glimpse of everyone dressed so fancy. And it all snowballed from there….

Mom is also a germaphobe. Yes, she’s that person who uses a paper towel when leaving the bathroom, shuddering at the thought of touching the germ-infested doorknob. I try not to roll my eyes when she pulls out a bottle of hand sanitizer before every meal. However, the one thing that will trump even her fear of germs is her vanity—the horror of attending an event in casual clothes.

Mom decides that she must change immediately and drags her suitcase into a large bathroom stall. A few minutes later, she calls me in for assistance. I’m shocked to see her suitcase splayed across the public bathroom floor and clothing all over. “Ew, Mom!” is all I can say. “Just help me put on my pantyhose,” she snaps, as she tries to keep her phobia in check. However, donning hose while standing proves to be too much of a challenge. With a quick “the hell with it,” she decides to put her precious Ferragamos onto her bare feet.

After a lovely evening, mom finally lets on that her feet are killing her. Yes, her beloved Ferragamos with no pantyhose are not a winning combination. The moment we get to the car, she changes into sneakers. Later, while walking into our hotel, she nearly falls. Her sore feet are making it difficult to walk. I plop her down on a couch just inside the entrance of the beautiful Claremont Club & Spa in Berkeley, California.

As I check in, I tell the front desk attendant that I might need some help with the bags since I’ve left my elderly mom in the other room. “Would you like a wheelchair?” she asks. “You have wheelchairs?” I respond in shock. “Yes, we have three!”

Moments later, mom is wheeled in by Scott from the concierge. They’re chatting away about her beautiful shoes and sore feet, though this new friendship almost didn’t happen. Mom had taken one look at the wheelchair, and of course, refused. Yes, the first reaction of older people is often to say that they don’t need extra assistance—how dare someone imply that they’re not capable! Though mom didn’t need much convincing. Scott told her that I’d sent him, so her reply was “oh, okay then,” and she got right in.

Our room is quite nice with cushy beds and a well-appointed bathroom complete with robes and an oversized showerhead that is calling my name. However, our room doesn’t have a bathtub for mom and her wobbly feet. Of course, Mom doesn’t want to make a fuss and switch rooms, so Scott proposes another solution—a shower chair. I’m beginning to wonder what they wouldn’t have an answer for.

Mom stays in the room to rest her weary feet while I go to the restaurant for some dinner. Mom has one request, a bowl of fruit. I dine at the bar in the stunning Meritage restaurant. The Claremont opened in 1915 and still retains the beautiful architecture of the day. I sit admiring the high arching ceilings and beautiful pillars.

I enjoy a delicious dinner, including a stunningly plated beet salad. Though when I ask for a fruit bowl for mom, I’m told that it is only available at breakfast. However, my new favorite waiter, John, comes to the rescue with a reassuring: “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.” A few minutes later, out comes a beautiful bowl of fresh fruit.

Each time mom had a need, the lovely staff of the Claremont had a solution. I was so impressed. The staff was not only helpful, but they were so friendly and truly took such joy in attending to our every need. I was ever so grateful.

Although our weekend started out rocky, it ended wonderfully. And the moral of the story? Always make sure mom’s feet are comfy and, most importantly, ask for help! The event we were attending was also at a hotel, and the gracious staff let some bored children watch a movie in an empty room while the rest of us enjoyed the festivities. If only I’d asked for suggestions of where mom could comfortably change! She’d likely have been allowed to use a room as well and then put her pantyhose on properly, thus saving her feet. Though without this little misstep, we may never have discovered just how fabulously wonderful and elderly-friendly the Claremont Club & Spa is. It all was worth it in the end.


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