Senior Stories

Senior Citizens Skydiving: Life is short. Jump at it!

My wife, Carolyn, and I are three miles up, falling, tumbling, soaring through space at 174 feet per second – 120 mph or “terminal velocity” – and all I can think of is: “Wow! I’m flying. I should have worn a jacket.”

The rushing winds press through us, cold, dizzying, exhilarating.

Carolyn shouts to me, “A fine mess you’ve gotten us into, Ollie!”

Below lie the vast Atlantic Ocean, the Indian River, and the Kennedy Space Center. All of Florida’s splendid and beautiful Brevard County is my panorama.

Spread-eagled in free fall, the wind paints a huge smile on my face. My senses are way past overload. I’m concerned that they’ll completely shut down from this pure raw ecstasy.

At 5,000 feet, a sudden whoosh, a pop really, as the rainbow-colored chute unfurls. My legs swing out in front of me as I’m yanked toward the sun. My tethered partner and new best friend, an Aussie lass with 4,500 jumps to her credit, hands me the steering lines.

It’s quiet now, the rush gone. Drifting, drifting in a silent blue universe; it is sublime freedom.

As I pull left, then right on our lazy decent back to the airport, I watch Carolyn landing below, effortlessly, as if stepping from a low stair. As always, the gutsy lady passed me by somewhere along the way.

Suddenly Trivia: What is the ratio of skydiving jumps to deaths, according to FAI/IPC: a) 1:10,555, b) 1:26,968 c) 1:64,091, d) 1:93,002

Longtime readers of this column will not ask why we jumped from a perfectly good airplane. They already know that Carolyn and I take to the air as an annual rite. We have experienced fixed-wing, bi-wing, short-wing (stunt), helicopter, even gliders, on our explorations.

Just last year, following a hot-air balloon trip over south Florida, I wrote: “On our next excursion to the sky, we’re skydiving. Neither of us fears dying. At our ages, boredom and stagnation are the killers that concern us most.” See I Wish I’d Been This Young When I was 20 at Hot Air Ballooning: I Wish I’d Been This Young When I Was 20.

Those of us who are Suddenly Senior enjoy many advantages, including never having to prove anything to anybody. We can set the kid inside us free. Fearless, joyful, we can experience life’s vast universe and all its miracles.

Don’t Come Crying to Us!

Had apprehension reared its ugly head, it would have occurred at Titusville’s Skydive Space Center’s office – “HOME OF FLORIDA’S HIGHEST JUMPS – 18,000 feet!”

There we signed and initialed 19 times a legal document entitled “WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!” This 9-page caution graphically explains that parachuting activities are inherently dangerous and one can be seriously injured or killed while participating in this sport. Summed up it states: “Don’t you or your heirs come crying to us if the worst happens.”

Carolyn and I learned long ago learned that it’s the things you don’t do that you’ll later regret.

Case in point: My Skydive Center* Certificate of Completion says, “Frank has accomplished what only a handful dare to dream and what only the elite few successfully complete. To Frank will go the knowledge, confidence, and esteem which only the privileged enjoy!”

Try getting that from your four-day Caribbean cruise.

Life is short and getting shorter. Live it to the fullest. I guarantee you’ll never feel more alive than while plummeting to earth at two miles a minute.

Suddenly Trivia Answer: c) 1:64,091. In a recent year, 29 died from skydiving accidents, over 140 died scuba diving, 856 bicycling, over 7,000 drowned, 1,154 died of bee stings, and 80 by lightning; 43,990 were killed in highway accidents. There were 1,171 boating fatalities, 235 airline deaths, and 1,164 fatalities in light aircraft general aviation accidents.

However, if at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.

*Cost of a Tandem Skydive at the Skydive Space Center is $159.95. Video package with still photography is an additional $89.95. Call 1-800-823-0016.

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