My very first skydive.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Sunday. My last day of camp. Today is the day I will finally get to jump out of an airplane.
What's that?
Do I hear maniacal laughter ringing from the skies above?

It's gray, cloudy and, if you can believe it, it's also hazy when I wake up Sunday morning. I've awoken extra early because my father is coming down to get the RV and take it back to VT. He told me he would be here around 9am, which in his world means 8:30am so I know I need to be ready by 8am, just in case. Surprisingly, this time he is true to his word and right at 9am, he pulls up in the enormous truck, built Ford tough, that will haul this rig. Serendipitously, I am putting the last bag in my car. As I close the door, I wave him over.

What happens next is a small turning point in my relationship with my dad.

He very calmly walks me through the entire process of breaking down and packing up the RV for transport. He doesn't just tell me, he makes me do it. Everything from tying the furniture down, emptying the gray (water) and black (sewer) tanks, sliding the extended rooms in, storing hoses and wheel blocks, and raising the support posts. He even shows me how to hitch it to the truck.

Let me say that again. My dad actually shows me how to attach the RV hitch to the truck. And then he says "In case you ever need to haul this thing, now you'll know how to do it."

I have this flash of fear that he must be dying, because the only world I can imagine where he would actually let me hitch AND haul the RV with the truck is one where he isn't here to do it himself.

Don't get me wrong. My dad is father to three girls. Growing up, we were not short changed in the chore dept. just because we were daughters instead of sons. We hauled wood, helped him build things, fix things and take things apart. Hell, my sisters and I used to argue over who got to ride to dump with him. That being said, my dad is stubborn and sometimes he's a my-way-or-the-highway-control-freakish kind of guy. When you add two young, healthy, 6 ft.+ tall sons-in-law to the mix? Well, lets just say when I am at my parents house, I do a lot more housework then yard work these days. In fact, this past winter, my dad underwent surgery on his shoulder. Given the incredibly voluminous snowfall we received this year, I came home as often as I could to help with snow removal. He begrudgingly 'let' me run the snow blower but most of the time he actually stood on the front or back deck and "oversaw" my work. One day I was so frustrated with his supervision that I looked up, pointed at him, and then pointed at the house. He got the message and went inside... and proceeded to watch me from the bay window in the kitchen.

So this "if you ever needed to haul the RV" statement? It's kind of a big deal. When the fear that he must be dying passes, I am actually moved (no pun intended) by it. There is love, respect, and confidence in his statement (If I were his son, I might say that it made me feel like a man. As his daughter, saying that it made me feel like a woman doesn't create the same sentimental effect). But even more than that, there is now an equality between us.

He gets in the truck and says, through the open window, "I love you, kid. Be careful today". He slowly pulls away with the RV creaking and groaning. Just before he disappears from my view, he sticks his left hand out the window to wave goodbye. I just stand there for a few minutes reveling in the fact that I may now officially be a grown-up.

I'm not in any rush to get the DZ as I am pretty sure it will be a no-go for jumping. Again. The campground I'm staying at is way up in the Erving State Forest so the road down is long, winding and absolutely beautiful.

About half way down the road I catch sight of something in one of the trees so I pull over and grab my camera.

No joke, it was a bear. can't see it? No problem. Here's a close-up.

Okay, you got me. It wasn't a real bear.

After this super-exciting wildlife excursion, I make my way to Orange and the DZ. I decide I will stop in and buy a Skydiver's Information Manual (SIM), say hi to everyone and then head back home. The first thing I notice when I walk through the door is that there are two AFF students with their name on the manifest board. I ask Cathy what the story is about the weather and she suggests I stick around until at least 2pm. So, I throw my name up on the board, buy my manual and sit under the shade at one of the picnic tables. A couple of guys are waiting for their tandem jumps and they pace nervously while launching testosterone-laden verbal barbs at one another to prove to themselves that they aren't actually nervous.

A guy wanders over to me and introduces himself as one of my jumpmasters. Dick is older, handsome, really grounded and, as I quickly realize, clearly doesn't get my sense of humor. It's okay, not everyone does but I have to shift gears into being a dutiful student. I pass muster when I can answer every question he throws at me (why couldn't I do that for the exam??) and can walk through every step of the exit and freefall plan. The plane is about to take a load of people up and I'm told that the next flight is flight 4 is next and I am on flight 5.

See, I knew it! I am definitely jumping today! We head over to pick out gear. The jumpsuit is my least favorite part, but I put it on anyway. Then the water emergency kit, the altimeter, the parachute (very important) and then helmet and goggles.

I am now about 15 minutes away from getting on the plane. I see a guy I went to high school with and walk over to say hi (turns out he's a tandem instructor. who knew?). In the middle of small talk with Sean I hear the announcement...clouds have moved back in and they are shutting down flights. I look at Dick and shake my head. We decide to stay in gear for a little bit to see what happens. I sit down on a bench, the weight of the parachute pulling me backwards a bit. After 30 minutes, Dick walks out and looks at the sky. I can tell by his expression that it's time to throw in the towel. I stand up, shuffle back the AFF corner of the hangar and slowly put my gear away. I know that the Universe is rolling around on the floor, clutching her sides from the pain of laughter.

I walk through the office to remove my name from the manifest board. Cathy watches me pick up the eraser. She tilts her head, frowns and says "Aww, honey. Don't worry, it'll happen."

I know that it will. Just not right now.

And it's okay, because my dad taught me how to hitch the RV to the truck. There are only so many giant leaps you can take in one day.

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