Sunday, October 5, 2008


To celebrate Beloved's 50th birthday in September and 10th anniversary of giving breast cancer a smack-down in December, several friends and I got together and gave her a gift certificate for a tandem skydive. So there's no misunderstanding, let me explain that a tandem skydive does not...and I repeat...does NOT involve a bicycle-built-for-two.

What it does involve is a second mortgage on your house and the signing away of all rights and privileges in case of accidental death or dismemberment. This total lack of legal recourse in the event of a disaster was explained to us in a video by the owner of the skydiving establishment, Chutes and Bladders: Fill One or Empty the Other, who looks like he has either been locked in someone's attic for 30 years, or has been playing bass with ZZ Top for that long. Seriously, the man wouldn't need a parachute...he could just hold his beard over his head and float gently to the ground.

After taking care of the legalities, Beloved was shoe-horned into a nylon jumpsuit formerly worn by a resident of the county jail and given a full five minutes of thorough training before she was whisked away to The Spirit of St. Louis. Okay...the plane wasn't quite that old, but let's just say that as I sat in the co-pilot's seat, looking at the grass landing strip through the hole in the floor and getting dizzy from inhaling fumes, I wasn't exactly overflowing with confidence. It also didn't help that there was a piece of duct tape holding the instrument panel in place and displaying the hand-written message, "THIS END UP."

Once airborne, Beloved sat in the lap of her jump master/partner, Byron, as he engaged the series of buckles, straps, snaps, and voodoo enchantments that would hold the two of them together as they plummeted toward Earth from 8,000 feet up. The next thing I knew, it was the pilot yelling, "Go! Go! Go!" and Beloved and Byron doing a strange ritualistic penguin waddle to the open side hatch of The Flying Deathtrap, and ... she was gone.
At exactly that moment, the pilot must have thought that holding the broken latch of my door closed was getting boring for me, because he put the plane into a dive that would make Greg Louganus die of jealousy. I, on the other hand, almost died of asphyxiation as my lower intestine suddenly blocked my air passage. We actually beat Beloved to the ground; sliding into our spot at the end of the landing strip like Pete Rose diving into home plate.

I crawled out of the plane, changed my pants, and walked back to the landing spot, being grateful that Beloved had lived through the jump and now could go back to behaving like a 50-year-old woman. Ha-ha, silly boy...the first words out of her mouth after catching her breath were, "Now I know what my kids felt like when they said, 'Again, Mommy! Again!'"

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