For years, I wanted to skydive at least one time, but life always seemed to get in the way. Married, with children, a full-time job, financial issues; there were many reasons not to, and my dream was pushed aside for years. When I was 55 years old, this major event in my life happened randomly, without any forethought or planning, and it was one of the highlights of my life.
This is how it came about. Dennis, a young man I worked with, casually mentioned skydiving in conversation and I remarked that I had always wanted to skydive.
He said, "How about this Saturday?" He watched me closely with a slight smile. A triathlete, almost half my age, blonde and tanned, young and strong, I'm sure Dennis seriously doubted that I would be up for this challenge. I felt that I could read his mind. He was thinking, "She won't do it."
I hesitated for only a moment, and then impulsively said, "Okay." My heart was thudding and my pulse was rapid and erratic. Tiny beads of sweat broke out across my forehead and my numb upper lip. My lower lip quivered. My legs felt like rubber and my left knee wobbled and threatened to buckle. What had I done?
"How about if we meet (at a well-known spot in Austin) at about 10:00 a.m. and drive together to San Marcos?" he smiled. My hands trembled and my knees began to give way. "(Gulp) Sure, okay." I tottered back to my office and sat at my desk holding my head in my hands, feeling slightly nauseous.
I went home that night and told my husband that I would be skydiving on Saturday. I invited him to go along and observe from the ground, or ride in the plane, or participate if he was interested. He was furious. He was totally against it and would not budge.
Saturday morning arrived all too soon, and I prepared to meet my doom. I asked my husband one last time to go with me. I told him that he could stay on the ground and observe, or go up in the plane and observe, or skydive. He glared at me and said "No." He stood stiffly with his arms crossed across his chest, and didn't return my goodbye hug. Used to having his own way, he probably thought that I would back down at the last moment. A feeling deep inside me spoke up: "Don't give in. Don't use his attitude as an excuse to back out. Be strong."
Moving in slow motion, as if in a dream, I got in my car and drove alone into Austin and met my friend Dennis right on schedule. I got into his car and together we drove on to San Marcos.
We watched a short video, signed a bunch of papers, watched our parachutes being folded by young, (and hopefully competent) employees, and got into our gear.
Our plane was a metal shell; noisy, no doors, no seats, ten of us sat on the metal floor, five paying jumpers snuggled up against five instructors. It reminded me of old World War II movies where the paratroupers sat on the floor waiting to jump.
My instructor had an apparatus on his wrist that showed our altitude. He told me that we would jump at 10,000 feet. I sat beside him silently, watching with morbid fascination as the needle slowly crept up - - 6,000, 8,000, 9,000, 9,500, 10,000 - my stomach was clenched and I was sick with fear and dread.
I looked across the open space of the plane at my friend Dennis and he gave me an angelic smile. I am pretty sure he was thinking ... "she'll back out; she won't jump. At the last minute she will back out." My resolve hardened and I thought, "No way will I back out now! No way!"
My instructor began yelling at me as if we were in a war movie, "Go, go, go, go!" and we rose up into a crouched position and crab-walked toward the open door.
We paused for an instant in the doorway, horrendously buffeted by the wind.
I was in front and he was spooned close behind me. "Jump!" he shouted in my ear. I closed my eyes and we jumped in unison.
The wind racheted in my ears like an old freight train passing an inch away from my head. Never have I been exposed to such a powerful rush of noise. We dropped like an iron weight.
The instructor pulled the cord and the most beautiful peace and tranquility washed over us. Utter and complete silence. I cannot emphasize the silence enough. When you live far out in the country, you may think you are experiencing silence, but you are not. You will hear an occasional bird call, or dog bark, or insects buzzing, or the drone of a plane high in the sky. I heard nothing, absolutely nothing. We were slowly floating downward in a beautiful blue sky full of puffy white clouds, and I could see cars below like tiny little toys. I looked up in sheer gratitude at the colorful parachute filled with air above us.
All too soon, the ground rushed up. As a point of pride, I did my utmost to land on my feet and stay upright. When my toes touched the ground I ran forward and we did not fall. I guess that's where the expression comes from, "Hit the ground running."
I strode toward the hangar with my instructor, and caught up with Dennis, and I felt as though we were coming back to base after a successful mission (smile).
(Disclaimer) If you are injured or killed while skydiving, your insurance doesn't cover it.
With that fact in mind, I HIGHLY recommend it! One of the highlights of my life! The one negative thing I have to say is that . . . it's over way too soon! I could float for hours among the clouds way up in that silent sky.
Thank you, Dennis Bass, wherever you are, for challenging me. What a wonderful experience. I will be grateful to you forever. To check out the place where I went, go to Google and search for "skydive San Marcos."
- Note added October 14, 2012: Have you heard on the news about the skydiver who successfully jumped from an altitude of 128,000 feet? !!! Felix Baumgartner of Austria jumped from 128,000 feet yesterday in New Mexico. Bravo, Mr. Baumgartner!
- Note added October 25, 2014: Alan Eustace, a Google senior executive, established the new record by exiting a balloon at 135,890 feet over Roswell, New Mexico, surpassing the previous record set just two years ago by Austrian Felix Baumgartner.
This belongs on your bucket list. A skydive will be one of the highlights of your life.