A 10-day trip to two Hawaiian Islands would be treat for most people. The real treat was when Bertha Ferguson returned home.

Ferguson’s son, Cardell Purdie Sr, took her Oahu and Maui, to celebrate her 84th birthday. In reality, the trip was an opportunity to get her out of the house.

While the mother was walking the beaches, touring the tropical islands, and enjoying Hawaiian culture, a work crew was busy ripping up flooring, tearing down kitchen cabinets tossing old appliances, and gutting a basement.

“My mother would tell me she was going to have her kitchen and basement remodeled at least twice a month for the past 10 years, ” said Purdie. “I didn’t want her to take her savings and use it to update the house,” he continued.

“I would visit her for a weekend every three months. I would take her shopping, to a movie, to breakfast, to visit friends or family, or to some event she wanted to go.   I would also secretly meet with contractors. Sometimes I would bring them over to her house and introduce them as former high school classmates, or Marine Corps buddies.”

The work started on September 5th, 2017, the day we boarded the plane. The crew had specific instructions they absolutely had to  be completed by September 17th, when she returned to Chicago.

Purdie monitored the home improvement via email, photos and video chats with tours. “It was hard not saying anything.”  He also had his sister Tanya Ferguson to monitor the work.

He said he was wound up with nervous energy while heading to the house from Midway Airport. He said he just had to trust that everything he visualized and planned was right.

Purdie walked his mother up the stairs and opened the door. He told her to step inside and he needed to go back to the limo to get her baggage.

Instead, he stood out of her sight outside the house by the door. Tanya walked from the bedroom to greet her mother. “Turn on some lights. I can’t see anything,” commanded Ms. Ferguson.

“What did you do to my house? Is this my house?,she exclaimed”  Tanya escorted her to the kitchen area. Tears started to flow when she saw her new appliances, modern cabinets and the shiny wood floor .

“This is really beautiful,” she commented.

Purdie joined his sister in the kitchen. “I couldn’t hold back my emotions any more. I started to cry as I looked at the smile on my mother’s face.”

There was more to come. “She was blown away when we took her into the basement,” said the younger Ferguson.

The once wide open space was partitioned into a recreation room with a red ‘S’ sofa , a couple of recliners a pool table, board games and a small bar. The other areas included a bedroom with two queen beds, a full bathroom with shower and tub outfitted for a senior citizen, and a laundry room.

“They got me good,” said Ms. Ferguson. “I’ve  wanted to have my house remodeled for years. I probably mentioned it to my son and daughter once or twice,” she added. “You mean once or twice a day,” replied Tanya, while laughing and smiling .

Purdie said she deserved this surprise. “If I can bring a little joy into her life, my life become more fulfilling.” Just seeing the smile on her face, and seeing how she seems recharged, made this whole surprise worth the wait.”