My husband: “For my birthday, I want to go skydiving.”
My crazy husband: “With you.”
Frantic me: “WHAT?!”
That simple conversation is how this whole crazy adventure started.
My husband Jorge wanted to take a leap of faith for his fiftieth. And, he wanted me to jump right along side him. My initial reaction was probably just like yours: “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good plane?”
It made even less sense to me since Jorge is afraid of heights, and I am afraid of flying. Hello. You take both to extremes in skydiving.
I dug my heels in at first, asking him why he’d ask me to do something that I not only did NOT want to do, but something that gave me real anxiety. Not to mention something that might kill both of us. Just saying. Was he trying to scare me? Was he going through a mid-life crisis, or was he just out of his AARP mind?
I think I almost cried about it. Did actually whine about it. I reached out to my friends and my viewers about Jorge’s over the top birthday request, looking for an answer or perhaps a reasonable justification to chicken out.
Through it all my husband’s explanation remained constant and simple. He said, “I don’t want you to buy me any THING. I want an EXPERIENCE with YOU that we will remember and talk about forever.”
Jorge and I met on a work trip to Cuba in 1998. We joke that the most infamous atheist, Fidel Castro, and the head of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II, brought us together. Ours has been that kind of relationship, fueled by adventure and passion.
But, fifteen years later, after five kids, three sports teams, two full time jobs and one part time gig ( I write novels under the pen name Linda Bond ) adventure consisted of shaking things up with dinner at The Wing House instead of Beef o Brady’s, after another long day of either soccer games or basketball games. Often both. In different cities. So, were actually lucky to eat dinner together in the same place.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my life. I love my family, but perhaps, after fifteen years, I had forgotten what I first loved about this man.
I first loved Jorge because he was the guy who made my heart race.
Race with excitement at seeing him.
Race with the challenge of keeping up with his quick mind.
Race with anticipation of what he’d do next.
He is the man who was never intimidated by me, and indeed, pushed me outside of my comfort zone on many occasions.
When I watch the video of us skydiving, and I see me standing at the edge of a plane’s open door, at thirteen thousand feet, cold air blasting me, my head tilted back, my eyes closed, the type A control freak completely at the mercy of a stranger in a jump suit, a little dizzy, and very scared, I realized Jorge is still that man pushing me out of my comfort zone, even if he wasn’t actually the man who forced me out the plane’s door.
When I hit the wind, looked down, and realized I was flying, if not solo, still actually flying, I couldn’t catch my breath. When was the last time you really couldn’t BREATHE?
And it was AWESOME!
I don’t remember if my heart was pounding. I’m sure it was. I didn’t look down again. Are you KIDDING ME? And, I thought I was smiling for the sky diving cameraman Bob Clark who was miraculously dropping at the same speed right across from me. But, when I look at the pictures he took, I now realize that whole freefall I had my mouth wide open, screaming with no sound, absolutely in awe of the insane thing I just did. Freaked out that only air was underneath me, the only barrier between Planet Earth and me. Not knowing what in the heck was coming next.
60 seconds of freefall felt like 60 minutes to me.
It wasn’t until that parachute opened, and I felt like I’d just slammed into a concrete wall, and the seat belt tightened and air bags deployed, did I finally exhale.
That’s when the air stopped rushing past my ears.
That’s when my lungs expanded.
That’s when my eyes focused.
That’s when Ilya, my tandem partner started talking to me, in a calm, controlled, voice. “Stand on my feet.” Ilya said. “Uh, stand on your feet in mid-air?” Did you smoke something? ‘Cause, I know I didn’t. But my feet did find his, and I managed to stand on his feet while flying upright. He adjusted my straps so I could sit while we gliding. That’s when I got comfortable. That’s when I started to enjoy the ride.
“Look to your right.” Ilya said. “You can see downtown Tampa.”
And, I could on this glorious, sunny, beautiful Florida day.
And, then I saw Jorge. He was gliding too, right below me to my left, waving up at me. And it hit me. How many couples fly together? How many couples sail on the wind, between clouds, enjoying the moment instead of blindly checking another item off the days to do list?
I got to watch my husband land – standing – to a round of applause. I heard our wonderful family cheer as I circled into the drop zone, sliding butt first into the safety of SkyDive City’s home plate.
If you watch the whole video you see me jumping up and down after we landed. Why? Well, the adrenaline dumping into my arteries, of course, but also because we DID THAT!
We faced our fears of both heights and flying. It’s empowering when you look what you’re afraid of right in the eye – stare it down – wear it down- and win. Then, that fear no longer has any control over you.
So, on my husband’s 50th birthday we both got a present.
And I will always remember the day I fell for Jorge .... again.