Yesterday I posted a blog about the connection between skydiving and parenting, but I didn’t really talk about why I decided to jump out of a plane at age 63 and how it felt.
Life constantly offers us opportunities to grow. But I think most of the time we ignore them. I know that as a child, I was extremely timid (and intimidated) and I rarely wanted to do anything new or go anywhere different. Perhaps that’s why I am so passionate about helping children build a self-esteem and why I try to encourage parents to help their children develop confidence and a sense of competence. I guess there is at least one great advantage to getting older…at least for me. I tend to be willing to try new things and travel to new places. In fact, I look forward to these new experiences. So when my son told me that he had a surprise for me during my visit to him in Chicago, I was excited. And, when he informed me that the surprise was a skydiving adventure, I was thrilled. Maybe it sounds odd, but I wasn’t anxious or nervous about it. I guess by the time you reach my age, you realize that any one of a number of things can happen to end your life in the blink of an eye…crazy driver on the road, freak slip in the shower or an angry disenchanted person who decides to shot a bunch of people at the mall where you are shopping.
The atmosphere at the Chicagoland Skydiving Center seemed quite festive…families sitting at picnic tables waiting for someone who was already up in the air; children running to and fro, heads craned way back to watch the planes taking off and the people parachuting down; upbeat music from a loudspeaker blending with the cacophony of children playing; a line of people waiting to order corn dogs and ice-cold soda at the vendor’s trailer.
So now I’ll tell you about my skydiving experience. After registering in the main building, we waited until our names were called to attend the brief training session where they explained what would take place and what we should do while in the plane and out of it. The instructor described the position we should assume while jumping out and while in free-fall. As this was going to be a tandem jump for both myself and my son, it was important to know that we needed to keep our hands crossed on our chests, so as not to impede our “pro” to whom we would be harnessed. And to keep our head to the side in the crook of his neck, so as not to head-butt him and knock him out, rendering him unable to control the fall. There was a large group in the training session, so we were pleasantly surprised when we heard our names being called soon after the session was ended. We quickly made our way to the main building and were met by our “pros” who introduced themselves and proceeded to put us in the harness and explain how to crouch at the hatch (like a baseball catcher). The plane was just about ready to take off with our group of about 7 jumpers and their instructors and a couple of photographers, so we made our way over to the airfield, boarded the plane and arranged ourselves on the benches that lined the inside of the plane. For me, the smell of the engine fumes was the worst part of the experience. When they opened the hatch, the smell disappeared and the view of the countryside was beautiful, but we soon became too busy with preparations for the jump to notice anything. My son and his instructor were the first ones out. As soon as he had jumped, my instructor and I duck-walked (I had been sitting on his lap during the flight to 9000 ft so that he could attach my harness to him and his to me) to the open hatchway. We rocked back and forth two times and on the third…out we went. Running through my mind were the instructions we had received during the training session: head to the side in the crook of the instructor’s neck, back arched, legs between the legs of the instructor, feet tipped up toward his butt, hands crossed on my chest. The power of the wind and air pressure as we plummeted down was awesome. In a few seconds, I realized the photographer was falling in front of us, motioning to me to wave, give a thumbs up and smile! Which I did…you can see it all if you check out the video they made: lifepursuitvideo.com/asppublic/Vide… via @AddThis
After about 30 seconds of free-fall, the instructor put his arm out and his wrist in front of my face to show me that it was time to pull the ripcord…I, however, was too busy interacting with the photographer, so the instructor had to do it. WHOOSH!!! Up we went as the parachute opened and pulled us about 1000 feet back up…at least it felt like that. From then on, the experience consisted of a gentle descent, pleasant conversation and lovely views of the countryside which grew slowly closer with every minute. When we neared the ground, my instructor told me to bend my knees and stick my feet out as far and as high as I could. Our landing was unbelievably gentle…he touched down on his feet and told me to put my feet down…which I did, and, to my surprise, I was standing and walking. He unharnessed me and said, “Go see your son, he’s over there.” Looking around him, I saw Peter several yards away, with the biggest smile, giving me the thumbs up! Perhaps the best part of the experience was that I shared it with one of my grown children…continuing and strengthening the bond we’ve developed over the years. It was definitely a great day…one I will remember for the rest of my life!