My step mother has been saying for the past month that she would love to come skydiving. The past month is all, because that’s the entirety of my skydiving history. But she’s been telling me how much she would love to come.
Until I called her on Tuesday.
“Robin, you still want to come skydiving?”
“Yes, I’m there! I’m totally there! I think it’d be fun.”
“Because I have Thursday off work, and I thought we could do it then.”
“Oh.” (long pause) “Umm…. Uhh…. Thursday? I think I…”
“No you don’t.”
“But I might…”
“Don’t pressure me, Jarret! I’ll have to figure this out.”
And then she hung up. This exchange is something of a microcosm moment for everyone I’ve asked since I started jumping. First, enthusiasm, the unbridled sort. It was the same response I got when I lived in New Orleans or London. “We there!” They all said. This is followed by backpedaling, of the rapid variety. White flags go up, the retreat horn is sound, it never ends up coming to be.
My dad called 30 minutes later.
“I think you really scared Robin.”
“By picking a day. I think she really wanted to do it until you actually picked a day for the two of you to do it.”
We laughed a little bit about it, and I resigned myself that my Dad and step-mother weren’t going to join me. I’ll admit to being slightly disappointed. I always seem to have these habits or interests that fall by the wayside for my friends. It’s not a big deal, we all have these things. Our friends don’t give a shit about our whatever collection, or perhaps the new book that’s stolen our time, or our new running fetish. And so we soldier on with these things that we love, that bring us great joy, that fill out our time and our personalities. And in doing these things along they become ours. We own them. For good.
Yet there are times, times when I’m at a bar with friends and someone will say, “Hey, man. How’s the writing going? When are you going to write a big, multi-page piece,” that I hang my head and sigh. “Do any of you assholes read my stuff?” I’ll ask. They’ll shake their heads. I happens this way, and it’s fine. I can’t expect my friends to follow my career, not really. I don’t want to know about their latest presentation, they don’t want to know about my most recent interview. It’s a fair exchange. But sometimes I wish we all had these things in common. Just sometimes, sometimes, just sometimes I want these things to not only be mine.
Every now and then Bob will tell me, “Yo, I read that piece you wrote on suchandsuch. It was fucking nice. I liked it.” Or, on my way down to Cross Keys he’ll text me “Blue Skies.” Just something simple. Every now and then Mike or Tony will mention that they found something I’ve published or will ask about my most recent jump, and all of it feels great. Just the interest, the temporary focus on my habits, my hobbies. Part of it is my own doing. I’ve published a few stories in journals and never mentioned them to anyone. Not my family, none of my friends. I’m private about it. Maybe weird about it.
But every now and then they show interest in these things. Every now and then it lights me up.
I picked up my Dad and step-mother at 9:30 this morning, heading down to Cross Keys. They weren’t going to jump; they were just going to watch. But they were coming. I didn’t tell them, but it meant a lot to me, especially given that I know my dad didn’t want to come. He is supportive, don’t get me wrong. But it makes him nervous. If I were a father, I’d probably understand the instinct, but I’m not. I’m pretty much accountable only to me at this stage in my life, so I jump.
An hour and a half into the ride we had this exchange.
“We’ve been driving for awhile. Are we there yet?”
“How much longer do we have?”
“Four more exits, and then a bit.”
Four more exits, and then a bit later.
“I thought you said we’d be there by now?”
“It’s one more exit away.”
“You said that half an hour ago. We’re still not close are we?”
“How close?” They cackled like kids. They were enjoying this.
We’d been at the Drop Zone for about 3 hours by the time the clouds burned off. In the interim, Robin had watched some of the tandem jumps, the kids gathered around, huge grins on their faces. One father, he must have been in his late 50s or early 60s, came into the hanger with a tape.
“Did you jump?” Robin asked.
He grinned and nodded.
“And?” She said, as my dad huddled close.
“I can’t explain it,” the man said. “It’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. You should do it. You’ll never regret it.” And that was it. My dad and step-mother were up at the manifest window, paying the young man and initialing the form that reads, YOUR LIFE IS OURS. YOU WILL NOT SUE.
And they were up in the plane. At the door, my Dad hesitated a bit. He had just watched Robin walk out of the plane, watched everyone else hurtle towards the hole towards the back. He put his hand up on the bar to prevent his exit.
“Sir,” his tandem instructor said, “You’re going to have to take your hand off the bar.” And as soon as my Dad’s hand loosened his grip, the second there was separation between skin and metal, the instructor pushed him out the door. And then they were both falling earthbound, dancing with clouds, spinning and flying and then under the canopy.
At dinner after we’d returned to the city Robin sat there recounting her trip for the 5th time, a huge Cheshire grin peeling across her cheeks.
“I think the whole way down I was screaming, ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’ And my instructor was so nice. He explained everything. The whole ride up I asked him about his family, he told me about the time his mother came out to jump. Did you guys see the tattoo on the inside of his arm of his daughters hand print?”
My Dad next to her, smiling the same wide, teeth baring grin.
“I don’t know if I liked the falling part so much, but I’ve never done anything like that. All adrenaline, but I don’t think I liked it that much. But the canopy part, the flying through the sky, that was amazing. And I didn’t want to go. My instructor had to push me out.” He had already told these tales 4 or 5 times, and it wasn’t getting old for me.
I jumped too, by the way, with Danny, my instructor, this 5 foot genius swooper from Vegas who has managed to make my training damn near perfect. He’s enthusiasm for the sport is beyond infectious.
But that’s not the point. Because today they took part in one of my addictions, and I loved having them there. The next time, and the time after that, and the one after that as well I will probably be jumping on my own. And, in truth, I love it that way. But sharing it, just for today, and down the road when I can get a friend or two to join me, was, for me, for sure, as close to a Perfect Moment as I can get.