Scuba Diving, Depression, and Memories

Photo attributes: Brad Holland

Photo attributes: Brad Holland

A week ago my son and I returned from Roatan, Honduras on another one of our Mom/Son scuba diving trips. We travel with a company called Family Divers who host weeks throughout the year where families come together worldwide to scuba dive with their children. Most of the kids are new to diving, though there are always a few stragglers like us who have been on these trips before.

This was our 6th trip with Family Divers to experience Kids Sea Camp (KSC). We keep returning for trips because I know my son is in good hands. The dive shops are all vetted PADI 5 star facilities, the equipment is safe, and my son has his own instructor (which is key since he has Autism and without him having his own instructor we probably wouldn’t continue to participate). KSC trips are all inclusive so I don’t have to worry about where we will be eating, or what we are doing next. They plan excursions and have entertainment for the evenings. I am sad to say I missed this years karaoke night, because I heard it was everything and then some.

Traveling with me always means something will go awry, and sure enough when we boarded in Atlanta for our 3 hour flight to Roatan we were informed the flight was delayed because one of the flight attendants was 5 1/2 months pregnant and opted to deplane because we were headed to the Caribbean where the zika virus has been found. I know how that pregnancy shit can sneak up on you, so I’m sure when she was packing her suitcase for her scheduled work departure to Honduras she never put it together. She probably just thought it was some water weight until one of her co-workers mentioned how adorable she looked pregnant. Eventually we took off with a new flight attendant and after a few Bloody Mary’s I barely registered the delay.

We stayed again at the Mayan Princess near the West End, of Roatan. Much to my son’s dismay there are no Mayan ruins on the island and he was not happy about the misleading name. The food was ok (I’m being kind), resulting in me shying away from the white ham in the omelet line every day. I sure wasn’t going to gain weight from eating all the amazing food. Once again we got room 130, a one bedroom condo with ocean front views. The bed was comfortable and other than the shower not having hot water, or only hot water, it was pretty nice. However, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the welcoming crew the first evening, but don’t worry my son took care of it.

“Mom! Guess what! I found a cockroach in the bathroom!” He said with a grin, knowing I would be grossed out.


“Oh don’t worry, I captured it with your tweezers and put it in this water bottle so you could see.”

He’s so thoughtful.

Throughout the week my son lost various things. One day it was his mask, another was his camera, and finally he lost his dive watch. All were found, but not without me losing my shit and him melting down. Par for the course, if it’s not stapled to him he will lose it, and probably even if it is stapled to him. The best thing my son did find all week were friends. He has never been exceptionally social on these trips, often times he can be found squirreled away with a book, but this week was completely different. He had breakfast every morning with a group of the children who went out of their way to include him. One night at dinner two girls came down to our end of the table and asked my son to join them at the kids side of the table. Often times at our group dinners I thought I had lost him (he’s a bit of a wanderer) but then I’d find him off in a corner talking to the other kids, and at one point he had a few of them trying to knock coconuts out of a palm tree. Special thanks to the hotel employee who took over and got each of them one before any of them got injured.

As much as my son was on I was not, I was off the entire week. Maybe it was because the day before we left was the one year anniversary of my father’s death, or maybe it was all of the balls I’ve been juggling at home. It’s hard to say, but I haven’t had a panic attack in a very long time until the day we arrived on the island. The panic boiled over when we stood in the customs line. My eyes cut to the water cooler, as my mind locked on the Xanax I had in my backpack. I talked myself down, took deep breaths, and tried to focus on just escaping the airport to the hotel. Eventually my rapid heartbeat subsided and the feeling passed, I had hoped it was just a fluke but it wasn’t. I had three more panic attacks during the week and instead of diving the afternoon dives I lay in bed trying to motivate for when my son would return from his daily diving adventure. Instead of socializing with all the adults I retired to my room early. The whole week I felt like I was in a fishbowl looking out, it’s not a good feeling. My humor and sarcasm, which I wear like a badge, were no where to be found and instead I was wrapped in what could only be described as a wet blanket. But I was there for my son, and no matter what I put on a smile and tried my hardest to push forward because this trip wasn’t about me.

The final morning as I went to check into my flight I made quite the discovery. My itinerary had me arriving in Detroit, MI at 11:15 pm which is weird because I was supposed to be landing in South Bend, IN at 11:15 pm, or so I had thought. Nope. I somehow missed that my flight had a required lay over on Saturday night, and that it would take me a full 24 hours to get home. SON OF A BITCH! How the fuck had I missed this? I’ve traveled enough that I should have registered this overnight, and what the fuck was I thinking when I set up the flight to be Roatan — Atlanta — Detroit — South Bend (my guess, there may have been a few beers involved). The Detroit portion of this trip was an absolute waste, because I can go direct from Atlanta to South Bend. There was nothing I could do about it, so I begrudgingly contacted my husband and explained I had somehow fucked up the reservations and would need a room at the Westin in Detroit. He wasn’t happy.

We arrived at the airport with hours to kill, and by the time I got on the plane I was annoyed. However, while sitting, trapped in the middle seat on our flight from Roatan to Atlanta reading ‘Where’d You Go Bernadette?’ trying desperately to whittle away hours of flight time I was transported back to being a young girl sitting at my kitchen table with my father after his long day of work.

My transference had nothing to do with my book, and everything to do with the older southern gentleman in the mint green shirt sitting next to me. I ignored him the first time he ordered his drink, trying to focus on my book, but when he uncapped his little airplane serving of whiskey the second time and poured it over the ice cubes I was enveloped by the smell. The sweet strong scent of whiskey, the drink my dad poured himself when he came home from work everyday. He always just had one, never more. 

There at 32,000 feet I confided in my seat mate, “my dad drank one every night, I haven’t smelled that scent in a long time.”

The kind sir went on to tell me of his trip with his son and an epic battle they had with a fish that got away. His thick white beard moving with every word as his hands demonstrated how exhausting the run of the braided 80 pound line was. His fingers curled to show me the hook the fish had bent. He surmised it was a record breaking wahoo, but he couldn’t be sure.

With every raise of his glass I smiled, my white bearded father the fisherman would have loved this story. For just a moment I imagined it was him next to me on that plane telling the story of the great mighty fish.

Although the week was not what I had envisioned, the comfort of having just another moment with my father was all that I needed to make it a trip I’ll never forget. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

Dad pic at wedding


  1. Heather Bokon says:

    What a beautiful grace from a otherwise unpleasant misfortune. It is such a wonderful thing when moments come around to shed light on our winding paths of life that point to just maybe there is a “Plan”. Thank you for sharing this and all your tales!!!

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