I hate heights. I’m absolutely terrified. On my honeymoon, I got stuck on top of a pyramid in Mexico in a thunderstorm because I refused to climb back down. I can’t climb up to observation decks, I can’t look out of 38-story glass windows, and I can’t even look over the railing at the mall.
If one of my sons gets near the edge of anything I panic, freak out, and yank him back. My heart starts racing, and I feel like I am going to fall. My boys wanted to ride a Ferris wheel inside a well-known sporting goods store, and I was hyperventilating the whole time. I made the operator stop after one rotation and let us off. My boys know not to ask me to take them on rides like that anymore.
Except that one day at the zoo.
About five summers ago, our zoo opened a new attraction called the Skyfari, an aerial tram that takes riders several feet over the zoo and back again. I never had any intention of riding it. But a little boy, with a flop of blond hair covering bald patches on his head and a smile that still made his weary eyes sparkle despite the cancer he was battling, looked at me and said, “Please Mom. I want YOU to go with me.”
How could I say no?
Joey was adventurous. He loved trying new things. I wanted to make sure Joey did most of the things he wanted to do in his time before the brain tumor cut his young life short. I really wanted his dad to be the one to take him high into the air over the zoo he loved, but he wanted me.
Worse yet, his three-year-old brother begged to go with us. Nervously, we waited in line as the boys excitedly talked about what they would see from ‘way up high’, and I shot my husband daggers with my eyes. The operator stopped the ride so we could get on, and off we went. The boys chatted and pointed excitedly while I tried to steady my breathing and manage an “Mmmm hmmm” every once and a while.
It was my grip on their legs that gave me away, though. I had a boy on either side of me, a thin rail separating us and one slip to the ground. I was gripping their legs as I tightly as I could. Cancer was going to claim my son’s life, but I would be damned if he fell into the Cheetah enclosure and was mauled first.
“Ow, Mom. Not so tight!” Joey said, and his little brother echoed the sentiment.
“I have to hold on to you so you don’t fall.” There. I said it.
“We won’t fall, Mom. This is fun!” As Joey wiggled excitedly in his seat, I re-tightened my grip. I kept reminding myself that I was doing this for him. I would do anything for him.
As the ride careened to the ground and we slowed to a stop to get off, I loosened my grip. My heart was still fluttering, but Joey had the biggest smile on his face. I still remember that smile every time I look at the Skyfari. I haven’t been on it again since that time five years ago. I’m too chicken.
I can’t help thinking, though, that if my little adventurer were still here; I’d be getting over my fear of that ride pretty quickly.