Sunday, June 22, 2014

I skydived and survived

Usually I take a while to compose blog posts. Things percolate in my head for days, weeks or even months. Sometimes I have to go through all the emotions and compose myself before I can write.

This time I'm going to go raw and stream of consciousness.

Today I went skydiving with 3 friends; the four of us lost our skydiving virginity together. We scheduled it 6 weeks ago, and my life has been so busy for the past 6 weeks (and I've been so sick) that I haven't had any time to worry about it. The date kind of sneaked up on me, which was probably for the best.

I knew nothing about skydiving going into it other than you jump out of a plane with a parachute. I didn't know all of the different types of skydiving.

We had signed up for the static line jump at 3,000 feet. I had no idea what that meant. When we got there, the instructor (in my opinion) tried to upsell us the tandem 10,000 feet jump by scaring us about going solo. I'm sure he had a point that complete newbies were going to have a tough time going solo, and we should work up (or down, as it may be) to it by starting out higher with a tandem jump.

Slightly bitter that I had been swindled and slightly relieved that I didn't have to sit through a 6 hour class, we changed to tandem. Tandem only requires

There were a few logistical hiccups (their bigger plane was down and a fuel pump part on their small plane was needed) that prevented us all going up and doing it at the same time.

I went in the second wave with D. L was in the first wave. She bought the photo package, which meant that a photographer went skydiving separately and took pictures of her and her tandem partner.

The airplane was little. Like the pilot and the 4 of us (D, me, and our two tandem partners) were squished together. I was literally sitting on the floor right next to the pilot. If I wasn't worried about the 10,000 foot drop after exiting the plane, I would have quizzed the pilot on what all of the gauges indicated. Alas, it was noisy and I was focused on the whole -- Oh, shit, I have to jump out of this plane and could die -- part.

Let me back up. Today was very...intimate. Getting strapped into the gear involved my tandem partner kneeling in front of me and telling me to open my legs -- twice -- because apparently I don't open my legs well. Then he felt me up quite a bit putting me into the harness. When we were in the plane, he strapped himself to me. Again, it was all very intimate. I could feel him breathing behind me against my back. I am so not used to being that close to anyone who isn't my husband.

Back to the jump. That's the hardest part. They kind of stop the plane (don't remember the technical term--pull back on the throttle maybe?), the door opens, and the whoosh of the strong winds immediately meets your body, and then you're looking down 10,000 feet. Unlike on a commercial flight, there's nothing separating you and the atmosphere.

He said, "Go!" and what's weird is I didn't hesitate. If I died, I died. Live with no regrets, and just do it. So I stepped off into the wild and crazy winds with no helmet, attached to this guy. We free fell for 5,000 feet before I pulled on the parachute.

Another side note. I've had some sinus and ear problems lately, likely allergies that developed into a sinus infection and bronchitis. I've been on antibiotics for 2 weeks and am starting to feel better, but apparently things are still lingering. Well, immediately when I stepped out onto the ledge, I felt ear pain and they became clogged. It put a damper on things, and I still haven't gotten my hearing back.

We did a couple somersaults once we stepped off and then we stabilized (as much as you can when you're plummeting to the ground). The parachute wasn't open yet; we were just falling. I suppose we were supposed to look at the scenery, but keep in mind you're falling from the sky at a high rate of speed (140-200 miles per hour), the winds are strong, you're wondering about the parachute, so perhaps observing nature (oooh, is that Mount Hood over there?) isn't the top item on your list. It was a pretty view, but so is looking out of the window on a commercial flight. As you're plummeting, perhaps you're on the lower levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. At least I was.

At 5,000 feet I engaged the parachute. Your body gets slowed down as it does its job, which lessens the panic. At this time you can enjoy the view more, but then you have to start worrying about steering. And the steering on the parachute is sensitive. So much so that I was starting to get nauseous as he did his swoops and turns. Then he slowed us some more and we came in for a (mostly smooth) landing.

I'm glad I did it. After you skydive, it takes away some fear. If I can jump out of a plane, I can do pretty much anything. But at the same time, I don't have a desire to do it again. It wasn't like it was horrible. I just was kind of "eh" about it. Maybe once I feel 100% and don't feel in a dizzy fog, I'll be more jazzed.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Father's Day

Father's Day is coming up.

I always think of my father on Father's Day, and I sigh. He was a nice, smart guy. It's unfortunate that he could never get his life together. I have a lot of good memories with him, and most of them also have some sort of addendum that takes out the good part of the memory.

For instance...

I remember all those fun dinners out he would take me various bars.

He took me to a fun circus, but we ran out of gas on the way there so we missed most of it.

He took me to the library, but then he went to the bar and forgot about me for hours.

We had a great time at the amusement park until he accidentally burnt me with his cigarette.

I loved playing video poker in his lap at the bar.

He left after dinner to get me a strawberry pie, but brought it home after 2am and woke me up to eat it.

We would have fun playing Monopoly until I caught him cheating.

He sent me checks for my birthday...that would bounce.


I was raised by mom, but I visited my dad and grandparents for a couple of weeks each summer on the east coast. My dad couldn't ever get it together enough to move out of his parents' house after he and my mom divorced. Or own a car without it being repossessed. Or keep a job.

I've never been angry with him. Rather, I became resigned after the initial years of disappointment when he rarely followed through on the things he said he'd do. That was just who he was. I could choose to be bitter, or I could learn from it. I chose to learn from him--i.e., what NOT to do. At the same time, he was quite charming and had several redeeming qualities, like he was the fun guy who told jokes. It was hard to see beyond the bottom part of Maslow's hierarchy of needs when he was always on the precipice of disaster though. 

It is interesting that when I started dating, I mainly focused on guys who seemed very different from my dad. With one or two exceptions, most were far more pulled together than my dad ever was. My husband is just amazing -- wicked smart and generous and thoughtful and emotionally strong. He is the best father that a little girl could have.

My father, while he had some really good qualities, wasn't the ideal father that read you stories when he tucked you in at night. He was the person who would eat Twinkies while watching bad TV until 3am and didn't realize that kids needed bedtimes, so I'd be sitting with him until he decided that it was his bedtime. I'd say it was laissez faire parenting, but it wasn't really even that. It was absolutely no structure or parenting.

What elates me is that my daughter has a dad who is that idealistic dad. Sure, she may still end up screwed up, but having a dad who loves her and is an excellent role model sets the stage for her to have a really good life.

However, she won't have those cool stories about playing video poker and drinking Shirley Temples at the bar when she was 5 years old.