There is fear that I am going to die this day.
I find that I am holding my breath as the single engine of the small plane sputters to life. What am I doing on an aircraft that
does not provide in-flight beverage service?
The aged plane in which I sit, cramped, is ready to depart from a small desert airport outside of Las Vegas, Nev.
We begin our slow roll down the desert airstrip. I look around the inside of the aircraft. It appears to be held together with bailing wire, masking tape and a prayer.
What possessed me to leave Mother Earth and to soar into the sky in an ancient, single-engine airplane? Faster and faster the aircraft moves down the runway. Soon I am overcome by a new sensation, that of utter weightlessness, something that is not experienced in large, commercial aircraft.
I realize that we have achieved liftoff.
Soon the fear of crashing and burning in the aircraft is supplanted by another fear.
“Get ready,” the pilot says. My palms are sweaty and my mouth is dry. The icy fingers of the cold wind reach out to clutch me as the door of the small plane is flung open. I do not have long to think about the chill in the airplane or what lies below, for it is time to jump.
Gingerly, I put one foot on the wheel strut. The signal is given — I step out into thin air, tucking my head to my chest and hoping that it does not crash against the plane’s right wing. Out into the sky I go, free-falling toward the earth.
I have jumped from more than a mile above the earth, free-falling in excess of 120 mph toward the earth below.
Even with a helmet on, I can hear the roar of the wind, like a freight train going down the tracks. It seems like many minutes, but after 45 seconds there is a tug on my chest and I realize that the chute has opened. What a relief! For the next several minutes, I float to the ground. I land successfully, no bones broken.
It was my 70th birthday and my sons, knowing of my interest to go skydiving, have provided me with a gift package that included airfare to Las Vegas, accommodation at one of the fine resorts and the opportunity to sky dive. Middle age is long behind me, the children are grown, the
house is quiet with just my bride and me.
I am now considered “one of the elderly.”
Readers may question what a 70-year-old is doing jumping from a plane. We who are called seniors should not fear to step outside our comfort zone. Now is the time to seek new horizons, to accomplish all that is on our “wish list.”
When the day comes, as it surely will, when I have breathed my last breath, I hope that people do not shed tears for me.
Be cheerful in knowing that I have followed my dreams. I may not accomplish everything — for no one ever does — but I have not let age deter me from attempting to reach my goals.
So, seniors, whether you have skydiving on your wish list or not, you do have dreams. Follow them. Do not use age as an excuse. Age is but a number.