SKYDIVING AT 49
Imagine your first ride in a small airplane is at two months of age. Countless more follow, so that your earliest memory of flying is with your dad and your mom in a two-seater Ercoupe flying to a "fly-in" - also known as an "air show" for spectators, although fly-ins don't have to include much for spectators since they are/were a way for pilots to gather together to celebrate their planes, their experiences, and to have a community gathering including potluck meals and dances with live bands held in hangars at smaller air fields.
Flying is a part of your life. You can't imagine not flying with your dad, and you get exceedingly grumpy when your mom makes you drive to a few fly-ins after she got scared during a flight with exceptionally rough turbulence (which you thought was fun). At every fly-in, pilots take to the skies to show off their planes. At the bigger fly-ins, you get to see big spectacles with fighter pilots, trick pilots, and skydivers.
You love all of it. You plan to do all of it someday, including those beautiful skydiving formations with those gorgeous parachutes spiraling through the sky.
But, life happens (this could be a long story if I detailed all of it), and your planned "someday" of going skydiving doesn't happen.
Until your own nineteen-year-old daughter tells you she plans on going skydiving. She's done some research. You help her and ask her if you can go with her. She says yes. You set a date. It feels a little surreal. You don't tell anyone outside of your immediate family because you don't anyone to talk you out of it. You're 49, not in the best shape, but you know if you wait for "someday" it isn't going to come.
You wait. The day of the skydive, you read the guidelines at least four times, you can't eat much, you know you are already in fear mode, but you keep telling yourself it is going to be awesome.
You suit up. You realize you might not be as confident as you thought after the training video and training on the ground when your legs shake while you're stepping into the harness and your tandem instructor is cinching it onto you, giving you a pep talk the entire time.
It's time to get on the plane. You realize you are terrified, but you are trying to smile and laugh your way through it.
Your instructor asks you, "are you sure?"
You shout, "Yes. I'm doing this!" while grinning and hysterically laughing.
The plane goes up. You can see Mt. Rainier, Mt. Bachelor, Mt. Hood, the San Juan Islands, the North Cascades, Seattle, and it's just as glorious to fly in a small aircraft as you remember.
Four solo jumpers climb out and cling to the aircraft in preparation for a formation jump. Your brain feels stuck in awe mode. They jump.
Your instructor and your daughter's instructor scoots you forward. She goes.
The panic is in your throat again, but you scoot to the edge of the plane, tuck your feet under and lean your head back onto your instructor's shoulder, and you're out of the plane before you have a chance to second guess anything. The air is loud, in your face, you aren't even sure which way is up for ten seconds. You take the arch position you've been taught, and the instructor tries to give you all the hand signals to do cool things for the camera, but you're pretty well stuck shouting "woohoo" through an open mouth, although they taught you to exhale and inhale through your teeth, with an emphasis on remembering to exhale so you remember to breathe in afterward. You remember the exhale. The teeth part not so much.
The sixty second free fall you signed up for feels like ten minutes. You're terrified, elated, amazed, terrified, joyful, terrified, thankful the instructor has over 22,000 jumps under his belt, repeat...
The instructor opens the chute, and while most people describe this part as glorious, you realize just how much farther you have to go until you get to the ground. Sure, you've slowed from 120 to 20 mph, but the fall looks never-ending to you. It's beautiful, sure. The instructor is trying to help you smile and laugh, but the terror is still strong. You fight it. Keep shouting "woohoo."
The instructor brings you closer to your daughter and you see how full of joy she is. It fills you with gladness, and you attempt to be super brave.
As you near the ground, fear hits again, but you lift your feet, and suddenly, you're down, on the ground. Relief.
And, although you want to go sit somewhere until your legs start shaking, you hug your kid, and thank your instructor. You think about signing up again - next time, you hope you can kick fear to the curb.
And that's how you skydive at 49.
MORE THOUGHTS ON KINDLE VELLA (COMPLETELY UNRELATED TOPIC)
The book I decided to use and why:
Originally, I planned to expand on my "Story Addict" universe, but that was looking like way too much new-writing work when I have other projects I'm already in a long-term work relationship with, including Resonance: The Rayatana, Book 3.