DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Vince in Vallejo" (Jan. 3), the construction worker who is suddenly afraid of heights, reminded me of a similar experience I had at about his age. I, too, suddenly found myself afraid of things that had never bothered me before. I was nervous if my husband drove too fast. I became frightened of heights.
I think that, at a certain age, death suddenly becomes real, either because of the death of someone we know or just awareness of how time is passing. We are not immortal, and for a little while we become self-protective. It passed for me, and I'm sure it will for him, too. -- ALICE IN TROOPER, PA.
DEAR ALICE: You could be right. However, I advised Vince that he should consult his doctor to make sure his problem wasn't of a medical nature. Sometimes a stitch in time ...
DEAR ABBY: You were right on about "Vince" going to see his doctor about his fear of heights. It may not be a lack of courage on his part, but rather his inner ear.
I began having problems with heights several years ago and mentioned it to my doctor in passing. After he ran a few tests, it was discovered that I had inner-ear problems. The slight, subconsciously noticed balance problems I was having were translating into my fear of heights. When I got my balance back, the fear disappeared. -- SARA IN CHICAGO
DEAR ABBY: I was a daredevil in my youth, but it all changed when I became a parent. My fear of heights is also painful, embarrassing and pretty noticeable because I live in the mountains. I guess caring about someone more than myself made me realize how important my own mortality was. -- AFRAID TO LIVE ON THE EDGE IN COLORADO
DEAR ABBY: I am 52 and have been in the building trades all my life. I have been on my share of roofs and high places in my time. My body is also now telling me that it's no longer the place for me to be.
We don't have to show off for the younger dudes -- just share our knowledge with them. At this point in life, our knowledge is a lot more important than our sense of balance. "Vince in Vallejo" should stay on the ground and teach the next generation how to do it right. That's how I learned when I was young. -- "ZAC" OF ALL TRADES IN CINCINNATI
DEAR ABBY: My experience is similar to "Vince's," and I'm about his age. I believe that the loss of flexibility in my knees, which began with the onset of osteoarthritis, has made me less comfortable working at heights -- especially the slope of a roof. Your advice to him was right on. He should not be concerned about any loss of courage. -- BOB IN COOPERSBURG, PA.
DEAR ABBY: I was a construction worker as a young man; now I am a recreational therapist who works extensively with seniors. I have also been a martial artist most of my life and own a small chain of martial arts schools.
My training and personal experience show that as we age, the large nerves in our legs that give us information about our balance, timing and position become less effective. Much of my current teaching is to help seniors reduce their chances of falling.
You can help get the message out that as we age, our balance begins to go, but by building up our leg strength and being mindful of our stepping, we can ameliorate these effects of aging.
Muhammad Ali observed that "the legs go first." At 52, my own legs and balance are not what they once were, and neither are Vince's. No more jumping kicks for me, and Vince needs to stay off the walls. -- SILENT DRAGON IN CONNECTICUT