“I want to go skydiving.”
My son, Cam, walked into the house one day, and that was his version of “Hello, how are you doing?”
“I really want to go skydiving,” he said.
Forgive him, Father. He knows not what he does.
You see, when my kids tell me that they want to do something, it plants a seed in my head. Mainly this seed is for potential Christmas or birthday presents, so when my son told me he wanted to go skydiving, I had an instant present.
I have two really good friends who are skydiving instructors at one of the only skydiving places in the northeast, so I hit my buddy up about getting my son a gift certificate. Scratch that, I asked him about getting two gift certificates.
You see, if my ex-wife found out that I gave our son the gift of leaping out of an airplane, and something catastrophic happened, I would probably never hear the end of it. I need to be in as much danger as he was, because Hell hath no fury like a very angry mama bear.
Two. Two gift certificates for skydiving, please.
I gave Cam his gift certificates for Christmas — noting that one of them was for me. We would be doing this together. Since he’d grown and become his own man, father/son bonding times were mainly spent listening to new tunes he found on Spotify, or watching Better Call Saul together.
This seemed perfect.
I’m petrified of heights. So is my son. What better way to conquer your fear than by leaping from a tin can flying at 170 miles per hour at 10,000 feet? Right, I can’t think of any, either.
It was a done deal.
When the weather finally warmed after our typical harsh New England winter (which gives us roughly 3.6 days of weather per year that are over 60 degrees), I made our appointment to jump.
On June 26th, 2022, we put on our adult diapers and headed to the airstrip.
We were both freaking out.
SkyDive Pepperell welcomed us with open arms. My buddy, Bobby, and his wife, Carolyn (my two friends/instructors) joined us at the jump site. They were both jumping with us. This made me felt more at ease, although Bobby was having a good time telling me how little time my tandem instructor had been jumping and had only had six accidents so far.
Bobby is fun.
We went through the 879-page waiver form, watched a video from a lawyer who actually had to read said waiver form, went through some basic instructions from our tandem instructors, suited up and headed to the plane.
Fun fact: You can hear your own heartbeat over the roar of a single-engine plane pretty easily.
“Hey,” Bobby said, just as we were getting on the plane, “I got the pilot to go to 13,000 feet instead of the usual 10,000 since you guys are special guests.”
We get to fall an additional 3,000 feet.
Our splatter should be spectacular.
I looked at my boy.
“Are you nervous?” I asked.
“I am so nervous,” he said. “I am literally terrified.”
I wondered what their return policy was on gift certificates.
Undaunted, we boarded the plane, with my son and his instructor sitting behind me and mine, with Bobby sitting in the aisle between us. Carolyn, Bobby’s wife, was teaching three students so they were heading out first.
The altimeter hit 13,000 feet.
The clear-garage-door on the side of the plane flew open.
I pooped a little bit.
When you are that high in the sky, and start watching people just PLOP out of an airplane, shit gets real pretty quickly. I was not entirely nervous up until that point — primarily because I trust my friends implicitly — but, right then, I was thinking, “I am a stupid man.”
Bobby, tapped me on the shoulder, gave me a thumbs up, and then walked out the door of the plane. He did not jump. He held onto the side of the plane, waiting for me to go next. We were jumping together.
This is Bobby holding onto the side of the plane, in the yellow helmet, as I’m nearing the exit.
Related: Bobby is a nutjob.
My instructor, Keith, and I got to the door and — as instructed — I just kind of dangled there, like a tiny little baby carried around in one of those chest harnesses. This is an okay analogy because, as mentioned, I was still pooping in my diaper.
“Three, two, one,” Keith yelled.
We were out.
I was not terrified. In fact, it honestly felt like I was watching this play out in front of me, instead of being part of it. I was disconnected until, a few seconds later, it hit me that I was falling to Earth at 120 miles per hour.
“YOUR SON IS OUT,” Keith yelled into my ear.
As I tried to turn my head, my right hand was grabbed. I spun to the right and there, holding my arm, was Bobby:
To my left, I could finally see my son, strapped to his instructor with his videographer taping the entire thing next to him.
I was worried that he was losing his mind, screaming in terror and cursing my name.
Nope. He was too busy smiling and flipping off the camera so he could make decent Instagram posts.
He was having a blast.
Our parachute had opened at that point, and we were floating back down. Keith let me steer the parachute for a bit, which felt a lot like holding onto the rings at the playground except, you know, the plummeting part.
But what hit me most, was the silence.
Cam told me this story later on.
While we were falling, Adam (his instructor), said “Do you want to hear the best sound in the world?” So I said, “Sure.” He then aimed us straight down at the ground, we were going so fast that the wind was whistling and screaming past my ears. Then he pulled the chute and everything just stopped. Complete silence. He said, “There it is.”
My son and I landed roughly at the same time, both textbook landings. The look of sheer excitement, shock and exhilaration in his face was incredible. He could not stop smiling.
“OHMYGOD OHMYGOD THAT WAS INCREDIBLE OHMYGOD,” he kept saying, over and over.
I realized I was doing the same. It is impossible to put into words how amazing that entire experience was.
Bobby and Carolyn both came over, high-fived and hugged us, with congratulations all around.
“Ready to do it again?” I asked Cam.
Cam, still in the midst of the largest endorphin rush of his life, looked at me, still smiling.
“YES,” he said. “But I’m gonna need a few months to calm down. I think I’m in shock.”
Then he gave me a big hug.
“Thank you so much, dad.”
“You’re welcome, buddy,” I replied. “I’m so glad we got to do this together.”
“Me too,” he said. “But let’s wait a little while to do it again.”
This post was previously published on MEDIUM.COM.
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