"I stood in line at the post office passport department today," he said without preamble. "I finished the entire crossword puzzle, and half the sudoku."
I set thoughts of my impending gut war aside for a moment. "And?" I prompted him.
"So," he continued, "I got up there, see, after waiting forever, and I handed in the form."
I raised my eyebrows at him as an invitation to continue.
"But it turns out there was a problem."
"Oh, no," I groaned, "you didn't forget your birth certificate, did you?"
"Well, yes and no," he said. "Actually, as it turns out, I don't HAVE a birth certificate." He paused to let that sink in.
"Wait a minute, you just showed it to me yesterday!" I protested. "It had the seal and it was notarized and everything."
"That's right, it did." (Dad loves dragging things like this out for maximum effect. It's part of his charm.)
"Okay, so what do you mean you don't have a birth certificate?"
"Ah. Well, you see," he said, "I thought I had a birth certificate, but what I actually have is not actually a birth certificate."
"What do you have," asked Charlie who had just appeared on his way to the laundry room, "a 'Certificate of Birth?'"
Dad looked at him as though he'd spoiled the punchline. "Yes," he said. "I have a Certificate of Birth."
"Okay, now wait," I said, "you're kidding me, right? They wouldn't do the passport paperwork because it's a Certificate of Birth and not a Birth Certificate? What the fuck? Seriously!"
"Well, see, apparently, a Birth Certificate is something issued by the state or county government, while the Certificate of Birth is issued by the hospital," Dad explained. "So, now what I have to do is write to the Los Angeles County registrar and get my Birth Certificate."
I just blinked at him.
"It's some kind of new Homeland Security thing," he said, "although you'll be happy to know that my father was considered a citizen of the US even though he wasn't born in the United States. I did find that out."
This was just one too many things to deal with. I shut my eyes and shook my head a little as if to get rid of any dust that might be clogging my ears. "Grampa was not born in the United States?" I repeated weakly. "Where was he born?"
"Oklahoma ... Territory," I repeated.
"Okay, so now what are you supposed to do?"
"Well, I'm a little nervous," he admitted. "There's an organization that will expedite your request for your birth certificate for a cost of $185.00, but the expedite could still take two to three weeks. Then there's the expediting service for the passport, but even then I don't know if I'm going to get everything in order before the cruise."
"What about that trip insurance you mentioned?" I asked him.
"Oh. Yes. That. Well, as it turns out, they'll refund you the cost of the trip if you cancel due to one of their acceptable reasons."
"And ... not getting your passport in time isn't one of those reasons?" I guessed.
"Actually, we don't know. They don't tell you what the acceptable reasons are," he said.
"They don't ... tell you ... what ... the reasons are," I said.
"No, apparently they tell you it's in case you can't go, but they don't mention that there are reasons. You have to ask. As it turns out, certain illnesses are not appropriate reasons." He looked at me for a moment. "Your mom is pretty ticked off about that," he added.
I could imagine. This was getting crazy.
"So, in a nutshell, you just better hope that your passport comes through before the cruise or you're screwed."
"Pretty much, yeah."
"Well ... good luck. Keep me posted." He assured me that he would. My mind reeling from this bizarre turn of events, I decided to leave the chicken broth alone as a sort of a detente, and regroup again the next day.
I wondered briefly if I could take Dad's place if his passport didn't show up in time. After all, I had mine...
[to be continued here]