I just awoke from a 2-hour nap and still feel exhausted. What is wrong with me? I just returned from our family vacation; all five of us spent a week together in the paradise that exists on Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean Sea. I don’t have the words to express the joy I felt walking on the white sugary beach and gazing at the crystal clear, cool, blue-green water that lapped gently at my feet. I never got used to it, constantly asking anyone who’d listen, “Can you believe how beautiful the water is? Have you ever seen anything like it?” Long walks on the beach, beautiful sunsets, pina coladas and fresh seafood; it all spelled “R-E-L-A-X-A-T-I-O-N.” So, now that I’m home, why am I so tired?
For starters, I began planning many weeks ago for our seven days away. I spent hours checking flights and researching car rental agencies. As soon as reservations were confirmed, I conducted a thorough review of TripAdvisor’s website regarding Cayman restaurants and top activities. This included time spent deciphering whether the comments were really written by travelers or by competitors of the listed businesses. Finally, I made a few reservations. Once booked, I remembered to check all of our passports. Only one had expired, so I grabbed Daughter #3 , stopped at CVS for a photo, then headed for the post office and paid the fee for expedited processing. Happily, the new passport arrived in the mail a few weeks before departure. Next, I stopped delivery of the newspaper, and went to the post office to complete a “Hold Mail” form. I called Visa to let them know to approve any charges from the Caribbean, just in case. (They always called me when my card was used at a Stripes corner store in the Valley, so I thought this only prudent.) I double-checked that the sprinklers were set for the one day a week that we could water, silently praying that the Lord would preserve my lawn until my return when I could hand water again. Arrangements were made for the animals. An early reservation was made with the kennel for our kitty, Pablo, but arranging care for our 13-year old dog, Maggie, wasn’t so easy. She hasn’t been kenneled for years; the last time she was boarded, she came home a changed woman/dog, psychologically scarred. So, we decided she would stay home forevermore. She’s lived outside all her life, protected by our covered patio, with ceiling fans running full-speed and several bowls of water strategically placed around the patio. (This was really unnecessary as she considers our swimming pool her personal water bowl.) Thankfully, two of our neighbors committed to taking care of Maggie. I left detailed phone messages, email messages and a note outside about Maggie’s maintenance requirements, including a pill for arthritic joints, another for eczema, and another for flea prevention. In the meantime, I remembered to pack up Pablo’s favorite stuffed mouse, refreshed it with catnip, put it with Pablo in the carrier, and dropped them off at the kennel. Finally, on the night prior to our departure, I breathed a slight sigh of relief and started packing my bags. That night was the hottest of the year, so, when my husband and I awoke the next morning, we both felt great remorse (i.e. guilt) about leaving Maggie on the porch. Just before we left for the airport, my hubby remembered that Lowe’s opened at 7, and he rushed out for a fan. Arriving home, he hastily unpacked “the Cyclone,” plugged it in, and watched Maggie lazily plop down in front of it. We thought we detected a doggie smile, so we quickly ran out the door to the airport.
With our bags and all three daughters successfully loaded in the car, we hit the road. “WAIT! We need cash!” I yelled. My husband quickly detoured to the ATM, retrieved some cash, and led us to the airport. It took awhile to find a long-term parking spot, but once we did, I remembered to snap a picture on my iPhone of the floor and the space. I felt quite pleased with myself as we entered the airport exactly two hours prior to take-off. There was no line at the United counter, so we walked right up, paid for and checked our bags, laughing that we had about 200 pounds of luggage among us for a beach vacation! Actually, my husband wasn’t laughing. We proceeded to the terminal, and I smugly offered snacks, gum, and magazines that I’d thoughtfully packed for everyone to share.
The plane took off and I realized that this vacation was truly happening! I pulled out a book I’d been anxious to read, reclined my seat, and enjoyed a Bloody Mary. Before I knew it, we were landing in the Caymans, greeted on the tarmac by iguanas and chickens. We got our rental car, remembered to drive on the left side of the road, and somehow made it safely to our condo just in time to settle into beach chairs for the beautiful evening sunset. Then we headed out for a wonderful dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Pappagallo. Arriving home, refreshed and relaxed, my husband and I settled into bed, agreed that Grand Cayman was a special place, and soon fell into a deep sleep. I awoke early the next morning because of some noise in an adjoining bathroom. I promptly sat straight up in bed, listening to my maternal instinct telling me something was definitely wrong. “Anne fainted,” said my oldest, who looked like she, too, might be about to hit the deck. I peeked in at Anne, and saw that she was white as a ghost. Off we went to the Chrissie Tomlinson Memorial Hospital, where we were seen very quickly and treated very kindly. The young doctor said it was nothing serious, but Anne would need to rest for a day or two and drink plenty of water, as she was dehydrated. We pulled away from the hospital with Anne stretched out on the back seat. “I’m sorry I’m ruining your vacation,” she said weakly. We assured her it was better to be sick in the Caribbean than in South Texas, but she seemed skeptical.
The next day we all enjoyed lazily lolling on the beach and, when we tired of that, we relocated to the pool. With dinnertime approaching, we agreed it would be fun to go to a nearby restaurant with a reputation for good seafood and scenery. Anne said she felt well enough to join us, so we all headed out. The maitre d’ seated us at a prime table on the water where we could see the tarpon circling, waiting for their nightly 9:00 feeding, courtesy of the restaurant patrons. The evening air was warm and humid, and the swirling of the tarpon and the smell of the sea was a little much for our patient; I could see her holding onto the table and beginning to sway. My husband jumped up and drove her back to the condo.
We all made the most of our next few vacation days, and truly enjoyed being in such a beautiful spot, but, we all felt a bit sad that one of our tribe was not feeling well. By the last night of our trip, Anne truly felt better, and we had a delightful evening at a beautiful restaurant on the beach. The next morning, we awoke refreshed and ready for the long trip home. Arriving at the airport, we snapped pictures of the tropical flora and fauna right up to the door of the terminal. Then we saw the line. People were packed 4-6 deep all the way from the United desk in front, winding around the airport lobby and ending somewhere outside the door. “It will move quickly,” I said, reassuringly. We had two hours and 15 minutes until take-off. Two hours and 30 minutes later, we were still in line. “Last boarding call for flight # 1497 to Houston.” I was panicked. Did I mention the a.c. was out in the terminal, and there were only 2 fans blowing in the building? Anne was bent over her large suitcase and the rest of us were fanning each other with magazines. Finally, my husband rushed the crowd, pushed to the front of the line and told the agent that our plane was leaving. She told him that the computers were down, and reassured him that the plane would wait for us and told him to get back in line. After another half hour or so, she yelled, “Is anyone here going to Houston?” I began jumping up and down, yelling, “Me! Me!” She asked me to come up to the front and my family dutifully followed. After handing my passport to the agent, another 10-15 minutes passed. Suddenly, she looked at me and said, “Oh, sorry! We’ve run out of paper and are unable to print your boarding passes. We’ll have to go get some.” Did I mention she was the SOLE agent at the counter? Suddenly the crowd became rowdy and a woman behind me yelled,” Does this mean they’ll hold the flight to Newark, too? Because if you hold a plane for her, you damn sure better hold it for me.” Oh Lord, I thought, please don’t let me be on the news tonight. Finally, the passes were printed and we rushed through security. When we got to the gate, the agent smiled and calmly said, “Go ahead and board. Last plane outside on your left.” We ran outside and crossed the tarmac to the United plane way down on the left, as five poor stand-by passengers were pulled off the plane to make room for us. We kept our heads down and slunk into our seats. Luckily, no one booed or hissed and we took off for Houston. Soon after takeoff, I relaxed in the realization that we were headed home. After arriving in Houston, we proceeded through customs and claimed our bags, then realized we’d missed our connecting flight to San Antonio. The United agent kindly explained there was nothing he could do, since our troubles were apparently caused by mechanical, rather than human, error. He sweetly offered to put us up in a hotel near the airport and book us on a 6:15 a.m. flight back to San Antonio the following morning, but since it was only 5:30 p.m., we decided to rent a car and drive the 3 hours home. We pulled up to our San Antonio abode later that evening, fed our hot, tired dog, and finally fell into our beds, thankful for such a relaxing vacation. Maybe I’ll feel rested in the next week or two; after I pick up the cat, resume delivery of the paper, and retrieve and sort through the week’s worth of mail.