"I can't go."
"What do you mean you can't go?" I asked.
With a look of shock on his face he said, "I can't go. My passport's expired."
"No it's not. You checked it. It doesn't expire until October," my voice getting more and more shrill with every word.
"It expired in January. I read it wrong," he said with a blank expression.
I looked at his passport. The expiration date read 10 JAN 15. He had checked that date at least five times before we left, each time reading the first and last numbers as October 2015, and each time fighting a feeling that something wasn't quite right. I still don't know how he missed those crucial three letters in between 10 and 15. I mean, I know how he missed it, but I still can't believe he did. And there was nothing we could do. No charming our way out of this, pleading with security, or sneaking him onto the plane. We all waited in silence through the security line. I shed a few quiet tears. Jonathan walked us to the gate, hugged us goodbye, and as I walked down the tarmac, I turned too late to catch a glimpse of him before we boarded the plane. It was probably for the best, or I might not have gotten on the flight.
His empty seat was filled immediately, and poor August didn't realize that it wasn't his dad sitting next to him. He kept asking "What's Daddy watching?" on the TV embedded into the head rest of the seat in front of him. As soon as the wheels left the ground, I shed a few more silent tears. I didn't want to go on this vacation that we had looked forward to for so long. I just wanted to be together. When our wheels touched down in Houston, the man in Jonathan's seat leaned forward, and August finally realized that Daddy wasn't with us. He pointed rudely, and said really loudly, "Who's that?" Then he kept asking where Daddy went. We met up with the rest of the family, and boarded our next flight to the islands. None of us were particularly talkative.
Once we arrived in the Cayman Islands, we got settled in our condo, and Jonathan's dad started to work on figuring out a way to get Jonathan there. Since we left on a Saturday, there were no passport offices open until Monday. Jonathan had already booked a flight out of Houston to the Caymans so he could drive there on Monday, apply to get a passport in a day, and catch the flight on Tuesday only to fly back to the states on Wednesday with the rest of us. Not much of a vacation. It didn't really seem worth the hassle to get a half a day in paradise.
I tried to take Jonathan's advice and enjoy the vacation for the kids' sake. We made our way to the beach and just soaked up as much sun as we could, bathed in some of the saltiest water we've ever tasted, and searched for intricate seashells. I tried to take tons of pictures for Jonathan. I didn't want him to miss out on anything, especially since this was August's first visit to the beach.
By that evening, Jonathan and his dad had concocted an insane plan. It seemed so far fetched, but if you knew the family I married into, it wouldn't surprise you in the least. Jonathan was going to fly to Miami on Sunday morning because not only did Miami have a passport office that can renew your passport in a day, it also had a flight to the Cayman islands Monday evening. Jonathan planned to spend the night in a hotel right across the street from the office, get up at 4:30 AM, go stand in the "non-appointment" line in a basement parking lot in hopes that he could get in and manage to convince someone to renew his passport that day. Almost impossible.
I woke up Sunday morning at 6 AM. So much for catching up on some rest. I talked to Jonathan before he flew out, and we spent the day on the beach, getting regular updates from Jonathan from time to time. We watched thunderstorms roll in and leave almost as fast. We built some pretty poor excuses for sand castles and added to our shell collection. I talked to Jonathan that night, before bed, nerves running high knowing he had to get up at a ridiculous hour, and that he's never been good at getting up early.
I awoke at 4:30 AM the next morning and couldn't go back to sleep. At this point, I'd pretty much given up on relaxing. I tried calling Jonathan to make sure he was awake, but he didn't pick up. I called again...and again...and texted. Nothing. I looked up the hotel number and called his room. When he didn't pick up, I calmed down a bit, knowing he hadn't slept in. Finally, at around 6 AM, I got a crackled phone call from Jonathan, who was in a basement with horrible phone reception. He had slept in, but not too late, and he was 2nd in line at the office.
August woke at 6:30, having a croup attack, and he and I sat on the porch with a nebulizer, watching the cruise ships sail into port. The whole day, though we were surrounded by the calming effects of warm sunshine, and soothing sounds of water lapping at the shore, things felt tense. At 1:00, we heard from Jonathan. He had secured a passport. At 3:00, he had his passport in hand. At 7:30 PM he had boarded his flight, and at 10:00 PM he finally joined the family in the condo with an incredible story to tell. If you want an idea of his experience, read the yelp reviews for the Miami Passport Agency. It was no picnic, but he did it, and he was in the Cayman Islands with us for the rest of our trip.
We tried to fit as much as we could in that last day and a half. Of course we enjoyed the beach, we went long boarding and kayaking, we went snorkeling and saw some of the most beautiful sea creatures right off the shore. We built sand castles, found seashells, played Frisbee, and soaked up the sun. It finally felt like a family vacation, if only for a short time.
Now I'm ready for a vacation do-over, perhaps somewhere in the states, just in case.