By Mary Lee Williams
Grandma’s off her rocker and she’s gone skydiving.
It was unbelievable. Awesome. Fantastic. I’m running out of adjectives, so I will tell my story.
I am 69, short, overweight, bad knees, quirky back. We started with exceptionally careful, precise instructions from Gabriella, then practice, practice again. It was reiterated several times by Brett, my instructor, a grizzled veteran of 9,000 jumps who still had all his appendages. They were both so patient and helpful, working with the creaky old bones of mine. Then into the jumpsuit. Oops, into the next size jumpsuit. Then I stepped into the harness, which was surprisingly heavy. I thought that was a good thing, since my life depended on it.
We entered the tiny plane. And it is tiny, very tiny. No business class, no beverage service – no seats. But a lovely 20-minute flight to reach the altitude of two miles – 10,000 feet.
Two miles high. 10,000 feet. Two miles – well, you get the picture. We took off from between the two largest Finger Lakes and it was so clear we could see all the way to Lake Ontario. After you are attached to your instructor, you have to move together (that’s where tandem begins) across the inside of the plane. Much like a four-legged crab, kneeling, scrambling sideways.
Moving carefully into the door of the plane and … suddenly free. A few seconds of tremendous wind hitting my face, then utter calm. With my arms and legs spread out, even though my brain knew I was falling, my body didn’t have any sensation of it. It seemed like I was floating in the air, like an astronaut in zero gravity, high above the ground. It was very serene, detached from the earth, ethereal.
Although Brett was tightly against me in the plane, I felt totally alone up there, just me and God and grateful that he was watching over me as I floated downward at 120 miles per hour.
So it was almost a little startling when Brett told me the parachute was about to open and I remembered I wasn’t alone. After the chute opened he let me do some steering on the hand cords, surprisingly easy to do and really fun. Then he offered to do some twists and turns that he described as being like an amusement ride. Since I get sick on the teacups, I declined. Instead he did some slow, wide, sweeping turns that covered an immense area. It reminded me of the hawks you see soaring over a field, riding the air currents. Who knew they were having so much fun?
Then, in deference to my knees, a very gentle landing, nestled firmly between his legs and sliding on my bottom across the thick grass. As easy as sitting down onto a couch. I just lay there for a moment, I think because I really didn’t want to come back to earth just yet. Looking up to where I had just been, two miles high, and wondering how I got here. And then how we all got here.
It was a moment for reflection. And then exuberance. And then elation. And then OMG, what was I thinking???
I’m thinking I want to do it again.
A word to the vain among us: the jumpsuits are not flattering. You do not have to wear one. Brett took a movie of my jump from a camera on his wrist. My granddaughter, who loves me, told me I looked like a supersized royal blue Teletubbie in the video. She was being kind.
After letting my son know I was fine, his response was, what’s next, alligator wrestling? Well, Grandma’s off her rocker, so who knows?
Mary Lee Williams, of East Amherst, is glad she had a chance to use the word ethereal appropriately.