My sister-in-law Sarah has lived in London for 31 years.
She intended to stay for a year working as a corporate attorney for a New York law firm, but never moved back. After having one child – and then three more – she and her husband decided to raise their family in England.
We’ve had an open invitation to visit and have never gone, mainly because I hate to fly. I broke my no-fly rule in 2011 when my tennis team went to USTA Nationals in Tucson and my good friend Christi served as my human security blanket. I sucked it up and flew, but kicked myself when I saw that one player drove cross country because she was afraid to fly. Damn, I could have rode shotgun.
People who hate to fly know we’re crazy, but we can’t help it. We hear about exotic trips and are jealous, but we’re penned in by our irrational fear. A friend of mine is skipping a trip to Portugal with his wife in September because he won’t fly. I can tell he’s sad about it, but he’s made up his mind.
I’m a bit more of a waffler, someone who’s always said – and believed – that I would fly if something came up that required air travel. That something came up: my oldest nephew in London married his beautiful girlfriend Lucy last weekend.
His parents did not press us about our RSVP – I know they probably assumed that we wouldn’t come because of my little problem – but this was a no-brainer. It’s a family wedding, which in my family means you go unless you’re incapacitated. A chance to finally see London with our kids. But most importantly, a chance to show my kids that you can have fears and concerns, but should not be crippled by them.
I’ve missed out on a lot of travel and adventure because of my refusal to fly, and as I get older, I’m really starting to regret it. We can live big, or we can live small, seizing opportunities or being penned in by fear.
I won’t lie – I was nervous during the flights, particularly the final leg from Nova Scotia to Boston when I noticed our plane had propellors where I had hoped to see jet engines. But it was nothing a little prayer and white wine couldn’t handle. Bonus: the credit card machine was broken, so the wine was free.
I take a few people to a nearby nursing home to visit friends a couple of times a month, and walking through the corridors is a sobering experience. Riddled by health problems that come with old age, most residents are confined to their rooms, spending their days staring at the TV or sleeping in the recreation room.
I go during the week, and rarely see other visitors my age while I’m there. And though I’m sure adult children and other relatives come on the weekends, I’m just as certain after talking with staffers that there are some people who never get visitors.
What strikes me is that these folks were once young, vibrant people who are now prisoners of their longevity. I hope they lived their lives to the fullest, taking risks and seizing opportunities. I will be honest: I deplore going to the nursing home because, well, I just do. We all want to live to a ripe old age, yet seeing the effects of age and disease – and the isolation and loneliness they reap – is extremely depressing.
The overall feeling upon leaving is one of relief. As I scurry down the corridors to leave, I feel a bit like a dog that has gotten a reprieve from the vet: run for your life! Get out of here as fast as you can. You’re relatively young and healthy – get out there and do things while you can.
Years ago, one of my jobs at the newspaper was to proofread the obit page. I know, exciting stuff, something I always managed to be doing while eating my dinner. One night, I was reading an obituary of a woman who was in her 80s, married and died childless. At the time, I was in the midst of the fertility process, wondering whether I should stay on the path I was on, or proceed with adoption as friends and relatives were urging.
For some reason, reading the woman’s obit that night was very powerful. I wondered if she had considered adoption, but never got around to it. I wondered if she had regrets about never adopting if she wanted children. I wondered why the hell I was wondering about her so much.
But I decided that night that I didn’t want to be the woman who died childless because I was too lazy, stubborn or indifferent to take a different path. I decided that night that in the end, I wanted to be a mother, by whatever means necessary. I knew at that moment that I would adopt children, that doing nothing was not an option for me.
I never considered that this may have been her choice – some women don’t want to be moms, and maybe she was one of them. But I suspected she did. The desire to nurture and the proverbial biological clock is hardwired into most women. From the time we reach puberty, we’re keenly aware every month that our bodies are built to reproduce.
It was 10 years between the time of my first miscarriage until I brought my son home. I’m so glad that I took a different path because had I stayed on the one I was on, I wouldn’t be a mom and that would make me very sad. Life has a way of working things out, but you must always be open to new paths and opportunities.
And so the no-fly rule has been snapped, for a young couple taking a new path together. I have no idea when I’ll fly again, what will come up to entice another flight. But I can tell you one thing: I hope it won’t be seven years, because that was really fun.