If you have missed earlier blog posts about my (long gone) days when I was skydiving and would like to catch up, here are parts one through four:
Tonight's post is about the precarious intersection of my skydiving adventures and ...
... my mother.
When I first decided to go skydiving, I don't think I told anyone of my intention. I may have been afraid I would chicken out and have to admit it, or I may have been afraid someone would have me committed. After my first jump, I was awarded with a very cool (and yellow!) t-shirt with a parachutist on it and the words "I did it!" I think I put it on in the car on the way home. I stopped at the one establishment on the way home where I thought I might know someone I could tell (a bar, naturally...I WAS in college at the time), and who would be there but my brother. I don't remember him reacting too severely, perhaps just shaking his head in disbelief. I was, after all, past the age where he could twist my arm up behind my back and make me do his bidding.
I couldn't keep my mouth shut, though, so of course I eventually told my mother about my exploits. I DO remember HER reaction:
"[Bragger], there's a fine line between bravery and stupidity. And I no longer know which side you're on."
That's one of my favorite lines of all time.
It may have bordered on cruel for me to take up skydiving at all, much less tell my mother about it. She had already lost a son to a motorcycle crash (AFTER he survived Vietnam...go figure), and she was adamant that none of us have motorcycles. (Well, I did wait until I was 45 to do that...)
Eventually, though, she came to accept my idea of a good time. She even agreed to go with me. To watch, not to jump.
I had progressed to 10-second delays, and I was working on my form in freefall. (Never did get it right.) I made the first jump of the day, then Mom helped me pack my parachute. It was still a round canopy at that time, big and bulky and a beeyotch to get in the bag. You had to use elbows, knees, feet, and teeth to get everything closed up properly, and an extra set of hands came in ... well, handy.
Mom knew a little more of what to expect on my second jump. She knew I was doing a 10-second delay and that I would be the second jumper out of the plane. She knew to listen for the cut of the plane's engine, and she MIGHT be able to see the speck that was her youngest child falling through the sky.
She waited for jumper number two, she heard the cut of the engine, she saw the speck, and she started counting. "Eight...nine...ten...eleven...twelve...thirteen...."
At that point, she said the only thing she could think about was, "Oh my God, I helped her pack that thing."
I didn't do it intentionally to scare the bejeezus out of my mother; I was working on form and just beginning to use an altimeter. The extra seconds were not even dangerous, since I was a student and jumped from an altitude high enough to allow for some wiggle room. But I'm pretty sure Mom was still pale when I landed.
I can only fully appreciate her feelings now that I'm a mother too. I wonder if it's too late to apologize.