Published Sunday, June 03, 2012
Though Ninja Man is in the aviation business, I flew for only the second time in 2010. It was then that I had no choice but to get over my fear of flying.
It wasn’t easy; it took my husband and a sweet stranger/angel on the seat across the aisle holding my hand, but I got over it.
The only other time I flew was around 1972. I was thirteen and found myself in St. Augustine, Fla. My parents apparently found me too and flew me home to Atlanta. The stewardess (that’s what they were back then) sat me next to a little boy who wanted nothing more desperately than to look out the window and give me a full description of everything he could see “on earth.” I wanted to push him out that window.
But it was the in-between 1972 and 2010 that mattered more than that first or second flight.
I had no real reason to fly. I was a super cheap date and was happy with vacations that involved day trips to the Georgia mountains or weekend camping in a tent. Ninja and I drove to Disney on our honeymoon, so we’d been there, done that and as far as family goes, they were all in College Park and those who weren’t lived in North Carolina, an easy drive.
When the kids were born in ‘81 and ‘85, I had never known such love and I cherished every single breath. It was unthinkable to fly and risk leaving my children without a mommy. My husband’s sister was killed in a car accident and I was even afraid to be on the roads, but I had to get over that and not pass my fears on to my children. Fear of flying was not something I “had” to get over.
It was when our daughter was ten and The Boy was six that I received an offer to enjoy a little getaway. It came from a pilot of a private jet that my husband was working on.
Though it was out of my comfort zone, I had dropped the kids off at mom’s for the weekend and headed over to pick up Ninja Man from work. We had plans to drive to Atlanta and enjoy our anniversary. It was late and my husband was the only mechanic left at the small airport. I sat down in the break room across from a well dressed man. We began to chat.
I didn’t really put two and two together before I said something to the effect of, “my-husband-and-I-had-a-weekend-getaway-planned-but-now-we’re-running-late-because-some-idiot’s-plane-broke-down.” The man sitting across from me was the pilot of that plane. He smiled and said, “I would be that idiot.” He proceeded to forgive me and wanted to make up the delay by inviting us on his flight to and from Orlando.
I peeked into the hanger. It was a private jet. A large private jet. My children’s faces went through my mind. “No thanks,” I said, “I can’t fly. I have little kids.”
He didn’t get it. Worse, my husband didn’t get it and he lost the chance to fly in a private plane, just us, in complete luxury. Standing there in his aircraft mechanic uniform, he would watch that jet leave, having only seen the engine. We would never have that offer again. Today that breaks my heart.
Fast forward to 2012. Last week I sat by my daughter’s side as she held her 3 month old baby. “I can’t believe you are flying next weekend, mom. You never, ever, ever would fly and now we can hardly keep you at home.”
“I couldn’t fly and take what I thought was a terrible risk,” I told her. “I couldn’t leave you two that way.”
My world traveler daughter, the one who flew to Europe to study at age 18, the one who has flown to Ireland, Prague, Austria, France and I don’t know where else, looked down at that tiny baby in her arms.
“Mom,” she said, her eyes misting as she gazed at her baby, “I get it now.”
Kathy Bohannon is a Georgia Press Association award winner and regular contributor to the Newnan Times-Herald. Kathy’s book Gardens of Savannah will be on bookshelves in late May 2012.