Yes, I admit it; in a moment of weakness I looked my son’s godmother in the face and called her the “B” word. Horrible I know, but don’t condemn me until you know the facts.
Our son’s godparents (I’ll refer to them as Mr. and Mrs. G.) are psychologists and a delightful couple. They live in Sacramento and are our oldest and closest friends—the reason we selected them to be our son’s godparents. They’d agreed to raise little CJ should a tragedy make him an orphan. Mrs. Chatterbox and I were visiting them a few weeks before our first trip to Hawaii. Mrs. C. and I hadn’t traveled anywhere since our son was born and we were bubbling over with anticipation of tropical breezes, white sand and rum drinks served in coconuts.
Wine had loosened our tongues by the time Mrs. G. said to me, “You guys are going to have a great time in Hawaii. I hear the snorkeling is incredible.”
I laughed and said,” You’re kidding, of course. I have no intention of going snorkeling.”
Had Mrs. G. not been working on her second glass of rosé she might have remembered my fear of sharks. Instead, she looked down her sharp nose and said in a tone she, no doubt, used on her patients, “You know, if you go all the way to Hawaii and refuse to go snorkeling because of your fear of sharks, it’s no longer a fear; it will have grown into a phobia.”
“Do you have any idea how many people are killed in Hawaii because of sharks?” I said. “They keep it out of the papers so it won’t affect tourism.”
Mrs. G. shook her head and made a tsk…tsk…tsk sound. She spelled it out: “P-h-o-b-i-a.”
Her words were still haunting me when a few weeks later Mrs. C. and I arrived in Hawaii. I’d be damned if I’d let my fear grow into a phobia. I purchased a snorkel and mask, and like a doomed convict being pushed toward a firing squad made my way into the surf.
I spent nearly two hours in the water. Without my glasses, everything was a blur; every rock seemed to be sprouting razor-sharp teeth and my head was filled with the sound of cello music and blood pounding in my ears. It was the worst two hours of my life, but when I staggered from the waves I was rewarded with the satisfaction that I did not have a phobia.
Months later the Gs visited us in Oregon. We shared pictures of our Hawaii trip and I mentioned my snorkeling accomplishment with pride. Mrs. G. congratulated me. Eventually the conversation shifted to other things.
“Did I mention my grandmother is flying to Israel for a month and has offered to pay all my expenses if I join her?” Mrs. G said.
“That’s incredible!” I knew how proud she was of her Jewish heritage. “When do you leave?”
Mrs. G. shook her head. “I have no intention of going.”
Her answer shocked me. “Why not? It would be a trip of a lifetime.”
“It would require a long flight, and I have no intention of strapping myself into a flying coffin. Do you have any idea how heavy airplanes are? No one can explain to me why they don’t just drop out of the sky.”
“But you’ve wanted to visit Israel for years!” I exclaimed.
She crossed her arms tightly and said, “Not going!”
I thought long and hard, choosing my words carefully. From the far side of the room my wife glared at me, a glare I understood to mean: Do not go there! But I couldn’t help myself.
I looked squarely into Mrs. G’s eyes. “You told me that if I went to Hawaii and refused to go snorkeling, my fear of sharks would become a phobia, so I went snorkeling, and it was two of the worst hours of my life. Now you tell me you’re turning down an all-expense paid trip to Israel because you’re afraid to fly?”
“That’s correct,” admitted the godmother of my child—one of my oldest friends.
“There’s a word for women like you.”
Her eyebrows shot up. “Really. What would that be?”
Note: The Gs are still our oldest and best friends. And eventually Mrs. G. did make that trip to Israel. Also, this blog will be shutting down shortly so please rejoin at chubbychatterbox.com/blog.