It has been a strange transformation, for Melina tells the funniest story of trying to coax Michael to actually board the commercial jet liner for which they had passes and tickets. Wise woman, earlier she had fed him tranquilizers. They walked down the Jetway and stood at the door of the plane.
“I can’t do it, Melina. I’m not getting on this plane.”
“Yes, you are, Michael. You are. Just a few more steps.”
The stewardess smiled, extended a hand and encouraged him. “Come on, Sir. You’ll be fine. Come on in.”
“I can’t. I cannot do this.”
“Yes, you can, Michael. We have bought the tickets and we are taking this trip.”
I wasn’t there, but quite well do I know Michael, my second-born, and I can plainly see his frantic blue eyes, white-rimmed with raw fear. He trembled, and his palms were sweaty.
Several minutes of this ensued, until finally the stewardess said, “You must come aboard now. Everyone else is seated and I have to close the door.”
I don’t know if it was shove by Melina and tug by Stewardess that finally got him aboard, but at last he was seated; agitated and fearful. The stewardess was kind, patted him, reassured him, and took him something to drink. A bit later, after Michael had finally settled down, the stewardess came to their seats and leaned over to speak to Melina. “Got any more of the tranquilizers?”
This phobia of flying became quite a problem for them, for his company, Buxton Drywall, has grown to now over 100 employees and Mike and Mel were older and could afford to travel more. In addition, every year, one of his suppliers perks them a fine trip to a different country of the world. He needed to be able to fly without such fear.
“What if you were to take flying lessons?” Mel asked once. “Maybe that would help you.”
Finally, over the passage of years Michael became more comfortable with jet travel and even began to enjoy it. A couple of months ago, he spoke to Mel. “Think I’ll take flying lessons. Kind of appeals to me now.”
And he did. And Monday he soloed. And the instructor is very complimentary of his skills, saying he is a natural at flying.
We arrived in Lake Havasu yesterday, and one of the first things Mike said to us was, “I’ll take you to see my plane tomorrow.” He glowed with talk of flying and how much he enjoyed soaring through the skies. It is amazing to hear him speak so, given his previous dread of flying.
Last evening, as we dined in a charming Italian place, a gentleman walked by our table, saw Mike and Mel and stopped to speak. After introductions, we learned we had met Mike Pryor, a pilot of more than 20 years experience, and now a captain with Delta Airlines.
“I soloed Monday!” Mike beamed, exploding into rapid conversation.
“No!” High fives were smacked, then the men were off into airplane lingo.
Last night, the desert sky over Lake Havasu was striking; gauze strips of cloud streaked across the expanse, the white full moon shinning its evening tale. As we left the restaurant, Mike gazed upward. “Can’t you imagine flying through that tonight. Beautiful. It would be just beautiful.”
I shake my head in wonder and ask you: What causes a person to go from ugly, nearly disabling fear of flying, to becoming a pilot who now is enamored with what once terrified him?
Is it because he is in control of the plane?
Is it because his spiritual condition has changed, and he has lost some fear of dying in general? (His spiritual condition has changed in a positive way, that I know to be true.)
Is it because he is older?
Is it just plain guts and determination?