Reaching a new  low in heights

I’m not sure when it happened. I wasn’t always like this, but somewhere, somehow, and at some time it crept into my psyche and hasn’t let go since.

I have a fear of heights. Last week Denise and I celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary (or should I say St. Denise). As a little surprise, thanks to a great Groupon coupon, we spent a night at a Cape Cod resort, with some great seafood and R and R.

On the way to our little get-away, we traveled up I-195 to Route 25. It was shortly before I hit the junction of the two highways that I began to get the sweaty palms and increased heart beat. I knew what was on the way — the dreaded Bourne Bridge.

I literally counted down the miles on Route 25 until that horrifying turn that takes one onto the bridge. Climbing eastward on the bridge I literally sang “la-la-la” out loud as Denise tried to take my mind off things by talking to me. I have no idea what she said. Once I reached the apex and started the descent, so too did my heart rate slow down and my hands unclenched the wheel.

As I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t always like this. As a young boy I was always climbing trees, scaling large walls and walking across them on a span about six inches wide, with no fear of falling.

When the Braga Bridge connecting Somerset and Fall River was completed in the spring of 1966, I was a few months shy of 10 years old. I remember the public was invited to walk across the bridge before it was opened to traffic. My dad, brother and I made the walk, and I had no problems, and the Braga has a clearance over the Taunton River of 135 feet. In fact I have home movies of the walk (I have home movies of everything my brother and I did as kids thanks to dad).

I remember walking or biking across the old Slade’s Ferry bridge, who’s “sidewalk” was made of planks of wood with gaps every 20 feet or so. My friends and I would traverse the span with no problem. Granted the bridge had a clearance of about 20 feet, but still it was open water below those gaps.

I also remember playing “around the ship tag” on the Battleship Massachusetts with my friends several times a month (when it only cost 50 cents to get aboard). We would climb all over that vessel and I hadn’t a fear.

Maybe it was shortly after I made my excursion across the Braga, when I fell out of a big old maple tree in my pépère’s yard and totally mangled my left arm. I completely broke the radius and ulna. I was in the hospital for five days and in a heavy plaster cast, losing completely my summer vacation.

I don’t remember climbing trees after that.

I also don’t remember finding out for the first time that I had developed acrophobia. Perhaps I shut that out of my memory.

When Denise and I were first married and she was pregnant with our daughter Lauren, we lived on a third-floor apartment. I wouldn’t let Denise hang clothes on the line up there, so I would do it — with only my arms out the window and my face planted firmly on the inside of the window. I must have been quite a sight.

I’ve had problems with the Bourne and Sagamore bridges (also with 135-feet clearances),  the Braga at times (but it’s much wider than those skinny Cape bridges), and other lofty places.

I did go to the top of the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center in New York City, but I hugged the building walls the whole time.

I don’t know if things are getting worse as I get older, but I surely hope not. My Anchor office is on the second floor!

And another thing, was the Cape Cod Canal really that necessary? I truly love the Cape and Islands, but those evil bridges are such deterrents. 

There must be a spot for an auto-ferry on either shore between the demon spans. Isn’t there?

Dave Jolivet can be contacted at davejolivet@anchornews.org.

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