A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


I don't want you to think my son, Joe, is a wimp or anything.

He's a big, strapping, good-looking kid (the "good-looking" he gets from his mother; the "big, strapping" he gets from me). He is the father of both of the World's Most Beautiful Granddaughters, an excellent college student and an upwardly mobile employee. He's been through a lot in his 22 years, and he's emerging from a challenging period of his life stronger, steadier and fearless.

Well, almost.

There IS this one fear that he has - a phobia, actually.


Fear of flying.

It started a few years back after a particularly harrowing landing on a commercial jetliner. Subsequent take-offs and landings only served to heighten (if you'll pardon the expression) his fear. And then came the horrifying events of last September 11, and a full scale phobia was born.

Such fears are hardly unusual. Social scientists estimate that more than half of all Americans suffer from some kind of phobic fear - rational or irrational. I am claustrophobic - fear of tight, closed-in places. Joe's mother is altophobic - fear of heights. When you stop and think about it, Joe's phobia is nothing more than a combination of my fears and hers - being in tight, closed-in places that are high.

You know - fear of flying.

All of which may be logical, but hardly helpful as Joe approaches another business trip this week. Not only is he flying, but he's flying to a city where he has never been before, and really knows very little about. So there has been no reason to look forward to the trip, and every reason to dread it.

Until tonight.

It just so happens that my brother, Bob, lives only about 10 minutes from the hotel where Joe will be staying. While my brother and I and our families are close in terms of love and loyalty, we aren't close in terms of proximity, and we don't see each other often. Still, Joe liked the idea when I suggested that he call his Uncle Bob and see if he could spend some time with him and his family while he is there - although he was a little nervous about making the call.

"What if they're busy that night?" Joe wondered. "What if they don't want to see me?"

Atychiphobia - fear of rejection. (Or perhaps it's syngenesophobia - fear of relatives).

In any event, he needn't have worried. Bob and his family are thrilled that Joe is coming. They are rolling out the proverbial red carpet for him, and killing the proverbial fatted calf. They're even trying to make arrangements for a basketball court for one of our family's traditional "no blood, no foul" basketball games.

"Hey, we're excited to see him," Bob said when I called to thank him for his kindness to my son. "He isn't just YOUR family. He's our family, too, you know."

Yes, I knew that. But it's good to be reminded from time to time. In a world filled with fear and phobia, there is safety, security, comfort and peace in the family.

Unless, of course, you have arachibutyrophobia - fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth - in which case you're on your own.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through