I want to fly. Not the stand-in-line-for-two-hours-to-get-squeezed-into-a-seat-meant-for-a-five-year-old kind of flying. And certainly not what Sandra Bullock was doing in Gravity which just made me shriek “EEEK” every time she almost missed another rail. I want an aerocar like George drove on the Jetsons so that I can zip up from the ground and whiz from whatever my point “A” is and on to point “B” and even “C”. I never liked the Jetsons but I loved how they got around.
My new interest in Other Types of Mobility is due in part to my worsening-arthritic-knees and a second — count them One and Two — fall this year. ARGH. At least this time I didn’t break anything — not even the trolley of empty wine bottles I was taking back to get my deposit. I used to leave them on the street for the Bottle Ladies but then I thought — Why? Why give them the twenty cents, eh? Instead, I trudge up to the Beer Store with them and collect the money myself. I make it my own little Christmas Savings Club. All the coins go into my watermelon-piggy-bank and then, on the First of December, I count it out and that’s what I spend on the holiday — in principle at least. It’s just like my sibs and I used to do at Christmas. All of us kids would dig into the sofa for loose change. (Did my Dad actually plant it there?) But, much more lucrative, was our collecting pop and beer bottles for the refund. How much did we get per bottle? Was it a penny? A nickel? A dime? I don’t remember. But we always got enough to buy Mom a beautiful boxed set of Evening in Paris blue-bottled perfume and Dad a box of handkerchiefs — all from the dime store, of course.
But, my problem with any kind of wide-open-flying is that I’m afraid of edges and heights. All my life I have had this knobby-kneed-sweaty-palm fear of falling into the abyss. I can’t even stand to see other people be on the edge of high high high places. Right now, while I’m writing this, I can look out the window and see these guys getting dangerously close to the edge of a building under construction. I want to shout out to them Be Careful Up There but I’m afraid they might get spooked and slip off the edge. It reminds me of my life working with lawyers (God forbid). One day my boss thought it would be really cool if the two of us went up to the still-in-construction building and look at what would be our “new offices”. One part of me thought that that would be fun, why not? But — when I got off the freight elevator at the 8th floor and saw no walls, no windows and only a thin rope separating me from The Edge — I stayed fixed in the middle of that space, not moving more than three baby steps from the elevator.
I wish I had inherited some of my Dad’s bravery. He was fearless when it came to heights and edges and jumping off. He could climb all the way up a ladder to paint the point on the trim on the house — higher even than the little attic window. It didn’t bother him so why me? Wouldn’t it be a gene thing? Was my mother afraid of heights? I don’t know. I remember one time when my folks visited me in Washington, we went up to Harpers Ferry. There’s a spot there where, if you stand on this boulder at the edge of the cliff, you can see three states at one time. I decided one was just fine with me, thank you very much — but not my dad. He climbed right up on that boulder and looked out like it was nothing. I had a picture of him there scanning the territory like a Lewis or Clark. The view must have been spectacular.
I’ve missed out on a lot in life by being afraid of climbing onto, let alone jumping off, edges. Oh, I’ve done a few — like moving to Toronto at age 49 with the non-welcoming, murmuring ex-husband. Surely that would count as edge jumping, no? But it wasn’t really until I jumped in the deep end of the swimming pool for the first time at age 65, that I truly felt a weakening of my life-long fear. I’ve only done it a couple of times since but now I know I can.
The other night on the news there was a story about this fellow who celebrated his 100th birthday by jumping out of an airplane (with someone behind him, for sure). He had a doctor’s note saying it was ok. There wasn’t any mention of whether he was overcoming a life-long fear of jumping off edges. Maybe I should try that for my 70th birthday? The thought makes me hyperventilate just a wee bit but, hey, I have three years to think about it. And maybe, in the meantime, I could jump off a few closer-to-the-earth edges for practice.