"It will be OK, Honey. Think of it as, 'easy on, easy off.'"
We have been through this so many times before. He could tell me that I have been on well over 150 flights (most without him) and that I should be sucking it up already. But he doesn't. He should go up to the gate agent and request a seat far away from me, but he doesn't. Instead, he strokes my leg and tells me that we will be home soon and that it will all be fine.
I want to be brave, really I do. I never used to fear flying--I LOVED it. That all changed Christmas Week, 1994. I was flying from Baltimore to St. Louis to attend the funeral of my cousin, who had just taken his life. I was on a Southwest flight. It was a strange plane because I was in the front row, but a row of seats faced me, like a bus. When we landed, we landed so violently that my seat belt and the seat belt of the woman next to me broke and we slammed into the people who were facing us. I ended up hurting a tiny child. I will never get the sight of her bleeding from her head out of my mind's eye. A couple of days later, when I was preparing to go back to Baltimore, I had a panic attack and didn't want to get on the plane. A fear was born.
I have done a lot to get rid of this stupid fear of mine. I took two jobs in the past that required me to travel extensively, thinking that would force me to get over my fear. That theory was shot down in flames. I currently take pills, but they might as well be a placebo as they don't really do much. I manage to keep it together when I fly alone. I don't cry, I don't make a scene. But when we fly together, I fall apart (quietly, of course, so that I don't bother the other passengers. I mean, why be labelled a freak, afterall?!)
I think he just knows that it is his job to keep me from having a nervous breakdown when dealing with the only thing I fear. Actually, flying is not truly my only fear. I have been pretty successful in not encountering many clowns in our nearly 18 years together. And I typically stay out of oceans. Unfortunately, airplanes are a necessary evil since we are so far from anywhere we want to go and anyone we want to see.
He always reaches for my hand as we prepare to take off. He holds my hand until I feel comfortable enough to let go. Occasionally, I let go immediately. Usually, I will grip his strong hand with my sweaty one for a much longer time, depending on turbulence. One time, he claimed that I almost broke his hand, but he waited until the next day to tell me.
When the turbulence is so bad and he sees my lip quivering, he assures me that everything is totally fine and that the pilot is getting above the turbulence. Then the plane levels off and all is well. There have been a few flights that were so frightening for me that he never got up to go to the bathroom. That is HUGE since he has a bladder the size of a mouse. I am sure he was tortured, but he never complained.
He is not perfect. No spouse is. I often joke that his inability to react in emergency situations will probably cause my death. If I ever have a stroke or a heart attack, I will be screwed, because he will probably be looking at me and trying to decide if I am being overly dramatic or not. But the one thing that does make him perfect is what he does when we fly together. And that is one of the many reasons why I love him.