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Bailing on Another Vacation Blues

By Keri Kelly

I was a full vacation virgin.

“Wait a second. We’re not leaving a day early?” I asked my fiancé during our honeymoon as I dug my feet nervously into the sand.

“Why would we leave early?” he asked, reaching for my hand.

“So, let me get this straight. We’re staying until checkout. Like the originally scheduled checkout?”

“That’s usually what people do when they’re on vacation.”

Not my people.

Three days into seeing the footprint on Plymouth Rock during our family’s 1983 summer vacation, my father announced, “So, what do you say we go home tomorrow?” By Day Five of our family’s 1988 Disney trip, my father wasn’t humming. It’s a Small World. He was desperately singing The Beach Boys’ tune Sloop John B. On Day Seven of our two-week annual trip to the Jersey Shore in 1994, my father laid out detailed plans to depart three days early.

At 25 years old, I had never stayed the entire length of a planned vacation.

I’d learned to cope with Premature Evacuation Vacation Syndrome by never emptying my suitcase under any circumstances, being ready to check out at a moment’s notice, and purchasing souvenirs on the first day. Vacation schedules were about as reliable as hands-free soap dispensers.

Over the years, my father’s premature departures got progressively worse. Day trips turned into hour-long stays, visits for lunch were brunches, and once, at my daughter’s birthday party, my dad bailed on the festivities before my youngest even blew out her candles.

“So, your mother and I are going to head home tonight instead of Sunday,” my father said over dinner with my kids on the Thursday night of a week’s stay.

“But, Pop-Pop, you always leave,” my oldest daughter pleaded.

My dad shifted in his seat. “Well, it’s been fun. We’ll see you later.” He stood up and dropped money on the table before bailing.

My girls looked pleadingly at their grandmother.

“He loves you both so much,” my mother said before kissing the girls goodbye.

Later that night, after I put the kids to bed, I called my dad. “Did you mow the lawn”

“I sure did. It was almost a foot tall,” he said.

“And the leaving early? It’s Vietnam, right?” My dad, a drafted GI, was scheduled to leave the Vietnam War on Dec. 24, 1967, but he was called to depart a day earlier than expected. On Dec. 23, 1967, the tank my father drove exploded. If my dad had stayed a day later, he would’ve been killed.

“I’m sorry,” he simply said.

“I love you, Dad,” I replied.

“I love you too, Boo.”

— Keri Kelly 

Keri Kelly is the creator and founder of R U Joking, an award-winning author and comedy writer, and mom. When she’s not creating, Keri can be found surfing small Jersey Shore waves with her family and fist-pumping. Learn more and say hello at

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