Flying with Fear

We are back home. Back into our day to dailies with full force after a weekend of getting away, literally and figuratively.  A weekend of fun and laughter and reconnecting.

And of facing our fears.

Head on.

This past weekend was the Fella’s family reunion that happens every couple of years.  While I’ve been to a gathering of his aunts and uncles on his Dad’s side of the family, we’ve never been to a gathering of Grampa’s cousins and their children as a family.  It was time to make it happen.

We had a decision to make.  Take a two hour flight from Atlanta to Texas or make the two day drive.  In the end, after lots of thought, the schedule made our decision.

We booked our flights.  Because it was just a few weeks out, the seat availability wasn’t ideal.  No big deal, I thought.  We could just request some seat changes.  I did that all the time when Aub and I flew back and forth from Japan.  TEN YEARS AGO.

Ahem.  Yeah.  Things change.

I called the airline and notified them that we would be flying with my child who has severe nut allergies.  All nuts. She was very understanding and said they could remove the peanuts from the plane but the airline could not guarantee there would be no nuts on the plane.  Okay.  Okay.  Got it.

As the time got closer, I became more anxious, but I also did what I needed to do to be prepared for a worst case scenario.  One of my sisterfriends said, “Be sure to carry an epipen on board with you.” I laughed and replied, “Yeah, or six.”  Can you say “over prepared?”

When we arrived at the gate, I spoke with the agent, and she said there would be no problem–that the flight attendants had it covered.  We hurried on board and got things ready for the flight.

All of the bags we carried on board were wipeable.  I carried wipes to clean her area and a sheet to put over her seat.  I forgot about the seat belt so that made me a bit nervous, but I did the best I could.  My people already knew we would not be eating or drinking on the plane.  I wanted no chance of ANYTHING going in her mouth that could hurt her.  It was a little less than two hours–they’ve done without food and water longer than that by their own choice.

The flight attendant announced there was an allergy on board.  She said they would not be serving peanuts and asked that no one eat any nuts while on board.

Oh my heart.  THANK YOU.

It was an amazing feeling to be heard and validated.  While it didn’t rid me of my anxiety, their kind hearted announcement eased it quite a bit.  My girl sat and played on her device and listened to music like the true preteen she is.  She is growing up before my very eyes.  But that’s another story.

We landed in what seemed like forever and no time at all, all at the same time.  Suffice to say I have no idea how I used to do the 14 hour flights to Japan.

After a long wonderful weekend of family and cousins playing and eating good food together, we got back on the plane yesterday.  We did it all by the book.  Got to the airport two hours early, checked in, and that’s when the magic was broken.  Our seats on Friday were not the ones I’d chosen on-line.  We had wound up all in the space of two rows, which was very doable.  I had assumed the person I called about her allergies had moved our seating around so we would be closer.  And maybe that was the case before, but for this flight, we were ridiculously far apart.  Cooter and Aub towards the back, our Princess and me in the middle on the same side, and the Fella in between us on the opposite side.  When we got to the gate, they acknowledged the food allergies, but they could do nothing about the seating.

Okay.  We can do this.  Breathe.

They made the announcement about not serving nuts and asking people to refrain from eating them while we were still in the terminal.  I was thankful for that.

We were allowed to board early.  I was told by the gate agent that between flights they would clean the tray tables four rows in front of us and four rows behind, so it was important we not change seats.  Okay. That’s great.  Really great.  (But I was thinking, they must be ridiculously fast or have cleaning fairies, because folks had just gotten off the plane.)

Oh, if it were only true.

When we got to our seat, I could see smeared handprints on the back of the seat in front of my girl.

Oh me.

I went to work with my wipes and the sheet and getting her settled.  We were ready when all the others came on board.

Before we were told to put our devices on airplane mode, I got a message from Aub, “Mama, the guy two seats over from us has nuts.”

Welp. Not good.

Because our messages weren’t going through quickly, and I was locked into my row by a passenger on the end who did not speak much English, I was left in limbo.  It was only after we landed that we pieced the whole story together.

So this guy had a big bag of Roaster’s Planted Peanuts.  He pulled them out.  The guy on the other side of him said, “Hey, you can’t eat those on here.”

Mr. Peanut replied, “Why not?”

Other guy said, “There’s someone with a nut allergy on board.  They made an announcement before we boarded asking us not to eat any nuts.”

Mr. Peanut said, “Huh.  Sounds like their problem.”  And laughed.

He LAUGHED.

Y’all, that girl of mine comes from a long line of strong people.  And people who stand up for others.  Some are more tactful than others, so there was no telling how this was going to play out.

As it turns out, she turned to him and said, “Actually it’s MY SISTER with the allergy, and if you eat those, I could come in contact with them, and then I have to ride home with her.  If I expose her to nuts, really bad things could happen.”  Her little brother was sitting next to her, so she was careful with her words.

And Mr. Peanut’s response?  “Really?” He scoffed, and he was done.

Later the flight attendant was offering snacks, and she approached Mr. Peanut.  He told her no thank you, that he had those with him and pointed at the unopened bag of peanuts.  “Sir, you can’t eat those on this flight,” she said.

He pointed at my oldest across the aisle.  “Yeah, that girl already chewed me out about it.”

The flight attendant looked over at Aub and smiled.  And she told him Aub was right.

All of this was relayed between us as we hurried along through the Atlanta airport to baggage claim.  I was so angry at the time, I know for sure one thing–that it is good I only caught a glimpse of him as he was getting on the train.  The Fella wisely guided us ahead to walk instead.  As I walked, I calmed down.  You can’t fix broken folks.  You just can’t.  I don’t know why he didn’t care about my child, or any person with food allergies for that matter, but for some reason he just didn’t.  All I know is I am thankful that, for whatever reason, he didn’t eat the nuts on the plane.

“Because if he had,” my oldest told me as we waited for the Fella to bring the car around as dusk settled across the Georgia sky, “I don’t know what I would have done.  But I would have done something. There might have been a ‘domestic incident.'”

“Eh,” I told her.  “Some things are worth creating a domestic incident over.”

I’m proud of her.  Siblings of people with food allergies have to live with the allergy too.  And this one–she’s her sister’s greatest advocate.

Tonight I’m thankful for a wonderful time with family–cherished moments.  I’m glad we didn’t rule the trip out because of the time or distance or our (MY) fears.  I am thankful for good flight attendants who care and make every effort to keep all passengers safe.  I give thanks for a daughter who is strong and can speak up when the need arises.  Most of all, I’m thankful for a safe journey.  And that all of those epipens came home unused.  WIN.

I have learned two things that surprised me though.  That anger and brokenness in people can overrule their compassion–I guess I knew that on some level, but to be reminded of it like this in such a personal way broke my heart and really, really surprised me.  Call me gullible, but yeah–I wasn’t prepared for that.

The other thing that I learned is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t book a seat for Anxiety Girl.  She doesn’t care.  She’d just as soon sit in your lap for the whole ride.  Doesn’t faze her one bit.  She’ll still come.  UNINVITED.

Wishing us all the ability to let our compassion override all the other things we are carrying with us.  Every single day.  And that when we take the chance to fly with our fear, we land in a beautiful place.

Love to all.

auvi q and wings

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