Looked in the mirror and realized I was not young and cute any more. You don't say that to people because they feel obligated to say it isn't true, but believe me, it is true. That does not mean that I hate myself, or that I think I am "ugly." It simply means I recognize my maturity of age and accept it with dignity.

Now, what did I do for my birthday? I did a tandem jump out of an airplane at 13,000 feet.

For a year before the event, I told everyone I knew that I was going to do it. That kept me from backing out. I didn't think much about it until someone died in a tandum jump the week before my jump. I thought about changing my mind, but wanted to try it bad enough that I did not cancel.

The day of the jump, Lee and Dan Erwin, a computer programmer from the Arizona State Legislature, went with me to Eloy, Arizona. Dan jumped. Lee kept his feet firmly planted on the ground. We had no preconceived ideas so each thing that happened was a marvel to us. Upon arrival, we found this is no "fly-by-night" operation. Rather, it is one of the largest jump sites in the United States. People were jumping and landing everywhere.

After a brief video giving us every reason to back out possible by scaring us to death, we got our gear. I was given a jump suit big enough for Shaq. At first, I was going to just wear it, but I knew a video was being taken of everything I did and I just could not stand to have that on in the video. So, I got up my courage and asked for another jump suit. It was tight, but it looked and felt much better. Trying to recall the entire day, the next hour is all muddled together with the videographer taking pictures, my jumping partner outfitting me with a harness, seeing the "Warning, Danger!" sign on my back, going to the bathroom, twice and waiting.

We got on a little open bus that took us to the airplane. We walked across the tarmac to the plane and entered from the rear where the plane opened up for the jump. With an altimeter on my wrist to let me know when we were high enough to jump, I sat back and “relaxed.” Funny thing, I was not nervous, excited, but not nervous. My jumping partner sat behind me and fell asleep. Why that disappointed me, I don’t know, perhaps it was because I wanted him to realize how exciting this was for me.

When our turn to jump came up, he instructed me to put my head back and let him walk me to the edge. If I were doing it again, I would not put my head back. I wanted to see us jump, with my head back, I didn’t see it coming.

Out of the plane, we tumbled a couple of times and then put our arms out and leveled off in a free fall for 55 seconds. At about 30 seconds I recall thinking, “Okay, I have done the free fall, now pull the chute.” The wind was so strong it was as though we were not falling at all. It was like we were lying on a clear plastic plate with a very forceful fan blowing in our faces. My mouth got dry, it was cold and my hair was standing right straight up. Doing it over, I would wear something warmer and wear a hat.

I pulled the ripcord and put us into the float mode. It was an amazing transition. No wind, no sound, no feeling of danger, just floating. We could see for miles. Airplanes were taking off, people were jumping and landing. All this going on around us and yet, while we could see it, it was as though we were all alone in the world and at peace.

Landing was another story. We were going to land on our rear ends, however, my partner changed his mind at the last minute and decided we could land standing up. He didn’t tell me in time and we landed with a thump. It did not hurt, but a few days later, I had quite a bit of back pain, it took me about 3 weeks of stretching to get rid of it. When we landed I quoted Kathryn Hepburn from The African Queen “Never has any mere physical experience been so exhilarating.” I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.

Would I do it again? Nope, like turning 60, once was enough.


1 comments

I love this story. I love the guts and determination you have to enjoy yourself even when it's easy not to make an effort. And just for the record, you may not feel quite as beautiful as you used too, but you look fabulous for 60!