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My Only Focus: Get to New Zealand...

Sounded easy. I wish it had been that easy. But of course, it’s never that easy. I knew only that Kevin had been helicoptered, unconscious, to the university hospital in Dunedin, South Island.

I had a travel agent who could book the next flight to New Zealand. It was late evening on Sunday; the next flight was Monday night out of Los Angeles. I live in Truckee, California, near Lake Tahoe, close to Reno. I was a long way from Los Angeles. I had to fly from Reno to San Francisco to Los Angeles! I had a plan now.

Expired passport

I began stuffing my clothes into my bag. I got my passport, opened it – Expired. I remember staring at the passport as confusion flooded my mind. OK! OK! Think! I don’t want him to be alone any longer than was required.

I called my ex-husband, Kevin’s father, who lived in Texas with his wife and three daughters. It just happened that he was in California. It just happened that he had his passport. I asked him to get on the Monday night flight to New Zealand and I would follow as soon as I could get my passport renewed. He could go.

I immediately went to the internet searching ways to expedite my passport renewal. I found websites that made promises that they could expedite my passport within 24 hours. This was what I needed. They couldn’t. It would be days – maybe. I typed faster, moving from website to website, faster and faster. Creeping panic began. The universe was blocking me from getting to Kevin.

I finally learned that the passport office in San Francisco had a telephone appointment procedure. I just had to let them know the date of my flight and I could make an appointment for an expedited passport. Today was July 28, 2002. I mapped out my time and saw I could fly out on Tuesday night, one day later than my ex-husband. I found a Tuesday 5:00 PM flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles which would get me to Los Angeles in ample time to make the 11:50 PM to New Zealand.

Problem not so easily solved. I called the San Francisco passport office. The system was completely automated. I put in my flight leaving Tuesday night as I attempted to make an appointment for Tuesday morning. The system continued to tell me that there were absolutely no appointments available for Tuesday and there was absolutely no way I could renew my passport.

I stopped calling, sat back and looked at my notes. I stepped away. I came back. I needed a miracle. I made the call again, but this time, I told the system that my flight was leaving on Wednesday, July 31, 2002. My flight from Los Angeles was leaving near midnight, so I fudged the date. It worked. I had an appointment at 9:00 AM on Tuesday morning! I booked my passport appointment. I called the travel agent and booked my flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles and then on to New Zealand. I then immediately booked the earliest Tuesday morning flight I could get from Reno to San Francisco. I still had logistical problems, but figured those were details. I still had to get from San Francisco airport to the downtown San Francisco passport office and back to the airport in time for a 5:00 PM flight.

I spent Monday packing bags and postponing legal cases for a long absence in New Zealand, with no known return date. My husband, Jeff, was my solution. We live 3 ½ hours from San Francisco by car. My husband drove to the Bay Area on Monday night in order to pick me up at the San Francisco airport on Tuesday morning and become my chauffeur. No car rental; no parking problems.

On that Tuesday morning, I made it to Reno with no incidents and Jeff picked me up at San Francisco airport, precisely as planned. We drove to downtown San Francisco, parked the car, well early. We went up the elevator. When we got off the elevator, we entered a small area that looked like a foyer. Across from the elevators and to the right side was a door with a security gate. It was locked.

“open, open, open …”



Life has a funny way of creating twists and turns, left, right, and even u-turns. Your whole trajectory, seemingly set, is involuntarily and immutably re-aligned. You are in unknown territory.

When that sharp turn is an absolute emergency and when all other considerations free-fall to the bottom of all priorities, it is amazing what focus and absolute intention can do. Panic hovered but I didn’t let it in. I got lost in the internet and automated phone trees. I had to indefinitely postpone my whole legal caseload in one day and coordinate all the legs of the journey to get to Los Angeles in time.

When life returns to “normal,” it’s easy to forget the talents we had when life was turned upside down. It’s easy to get flustered because someone drives quickly in front of you on the highway or the computer tech geek doesn’t speak your language. I often think about how laser focused I was and how my priorities shifted instantly. When I’m about to flare up over moments that would have plummeted to the bottom of the priority list on July 28, 2002, I often think about that day and realize that I can make a choice even now on my priorities and how to spend my energy and focus.

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