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GRACE NOTES 12/01/12: Who's flying the plane?

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By Nancy Kennedy

I flew a plane last week, Delta flight 837. Well, maybe not “flew” it, but I definitely helped.


My daughter moved to Hawaii last week and flew from Atlanta to Honolulu, a nine-hour, 14-minute flight that I tracked on my computer.


For nine hours and 14 minutes I watched an airplane icon inch its way across the continent and then over the Pacific Ocean.
 

At one point, about an hour off the California coast, the plane on my computer screen faced east instead of west.
 

My heart went into all kinds of atrial fibrillation and then stopped altogether. Not really, but when I thought the plane had turned back for some reason that I was unaware of and did not sanction, I panicked.
 

Just as I picked up the phone to call Delta to explain to them that my firstborn and my only grandchild were on that flight and that I had not authorized any problems or malfunctions whatsoever, I refreshed my browser to see the plane icon heading west again.


I tracked the plane the whole rest of the way, taking a break only to check the weather updates over the Pacific, and did not actually breathe until I watched it touch down.


Trust me, it’s hard work flying an airplane from your living room couch.


It’s also hard work being a neurotic mess.


For weeks prior to Alison moving I’d been feeling her stress and angst. She hates change of any kind. Ironically, she married a military man and has had to move every three years.
 

So, every three years — this is their fifth move — she is a neurotic, chaotic mess, which means as her mother (who tries with all her mind, body, soul and strength to control the portion of the universe in which her children dwell) I am a neurotic mess, too.


For the past few weeks, with every bit of news about some snafu — I think the Army coined the term “snafu” (situation normal, all fouled up) — as she fretted and worried, so did I. For example, my son-in-law went to Hawaii several weeks early expecting to sign for military housing only to learn there would not be military housing available for at least a year.
 

So, as my daughter’s stomach knotted so did mine. However, being the mom, I also had to send her cheery, faith-filled “God is in control” messages, which I believe in theory but have a hard time putting into practice.
 

Then, as she said goodbye to friends and was sad, I was sad, too.
 

It’s a mom thing — moms feel what their kids feel.
 

Or maybe it’s a neurotic person thing. For now, I’ll go with the mom thing. That sounds less crazy.
 

The reason why I felt it necessary to track my daughter’s flight, since I couldn’t actually fly the plane myself, because I don’t have a pilot’s license nor know anything about flying a plane, was because my daughter is a nervous flyer, especially over water.
 

She gets that from me. I have very little fear of flying over land, but freak out at the thought of not being able to buzz the pilot and say, “Um, could you pull over and let me out here?”


So, with mommy at the controls, I knew my daughter would be safe. When I am at the helm I can keep the weather conditions optimum for flying and therefore turbulence- and anxiety-free. Plus, I would never let anything bad happen over the ocean!
 

The thing is, the whole time I sat watching the plane icon inch its way across the computer screen, I had a nagging feeling that it possibly may not have been me that was really flying the plane.


I even considered that maybe not even the actual pilot was in control, but that God was and could handle things quite nicely without either one of us if need be.


I’m mostly joking about all this. I know I can’t change my daughter’s circumstances or take away her stress or make her unsad. I certainly can’t make the Army not mess things up.


But sometimes God lets me go through the ridiculousness of pretending that I can just so I can remember that I can’t, that he is God and I am not and that there’s not one wayward molecule in the entire universe, including the portions of the universe where my children dwell.


Believe it or not, I’m a lot better than I used to be. I used to be really crazy.


Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.