By Shelley Murphy
Sometimes, it seems like yesterday that I stood, in the August heat, on an unfamiliar college campus and waved goodbye to my older son as he walked toward his freshman dorm.
I fought back tears, understanding things would change between us; I’d miss his daily presence, his sharp sense of humor, and the life he brings to our home.
Dropping off my son at college was excruciating, but I found comfort in knowing he’d be close by, and we’d see each other often for football games and other occasions.
Then, I blinked.
All of a sudden, he’s a graduating senior and interviewing for a coveted job in the Midwest. The morning of his pivotal interview, I held my breath and waited for his call. My son finally phoned and shouted, “They offered me the job!”
Elated and relieved, I didn’t stop to calculate that my one-hour drive south had now morphed into a four-hour flight east.
Before sending my firstborn off to college, I read ample articles offering helpful tips to survive my son’s flight from the nest. But I must have missed the commentary that cautioned how far they’d fly given the opportunity.
As happy as I was for him to land his first job, I was even happier when he called a year later to say he’d accepted a job offer in Northern California.
Today, both my boys’ careers cause them to reside in the Bay Area.
I’m thrilled my kids are living fulfilling and independent lives—that’s the goal. However, it’s taken time for me to adjust to their geographical habitat.
It’s ironic (or karma) that airports and frequent-flier programs are a large part of my life considering that my epic fear of flying is legendary.
I understand statistics do not support my irrational fear, but I also know I’m not alone. Aerophobia (a fear of flying) affects more than 25 million adults in the United States.
Yes, I’ve heard that people are more likely to be involved in a car crash than a plane crash. To that, I say, I don’t need a parachute to survive a car crash.
As much as I dread the flights, I always look forward to spending time together with my boys. Planning the trips to see my sons keeps me going despite the nausea that strikes when I click “purchase now” on an airline’s website.
Last weekend, my husband and I embarked on another trip to the Bay Area.
As usual, boarding the airplane in Orange County was daunting, but I settled into my seat and tried (again) to distract myself with a magazine.
After landing, we reunited with our younger son and spent four fun days together. But, too soon, it was time to exchange hugs at the airport and weather another painful goodbye.
Once I took my seat on the return flight, and wrestled with my magazine, the pilot warned the flight would be turbulent. Minutes later, the “fasten seat belt” light went on, and my mind raced, imagining every disastrous scenario at 30,000 feet.
Our final approach was harrowing because of the blustery winds and bad weather. The pilot’s forewarning of bumps, bounces and storms did nothing to ease my fears.
While the flight was terrifying, it was equally distressing exiting the aircraft knowing the amount of time that will pass before I’ll see my sons again.
I was back on solid ground, but the turbulence lingered in my heart.
I’m happy my boys are living their best lives, and I remind myself the goal was to teach them to fly; I only wish they hadn’t flown so far away.
For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to Picket Fence Media since 2006.