MY BIG DAY – JULY 16, 2009
by Bev Hardy

As I walked to the plane, I was going back over the details of how I had managed to let myself get talked into this. At 83 years old, I should have known better. What was I doing here? I was afraid of flying and afraid of heights. I hated roller coasters. If my kids knew they’d probably say “don’t”. I was the first in the plane, and couldn’t even figure out where to sit. There were no seats, much less a bathroom or drinking fountain. The old retired United Parcel plane was just an empty shell inside, except for a couple of long things that might be called benches. As my instructor came in he told me to sit straddle legged on the bench.

Lloyd my 80 year old retired psychiatrist friend and his instructor were next. I tried to tell myself that if he wasn’t scared, then I shouldn’t be. But I was! Then came Shelly Anderson.
This was all her fault. Shelly had been a friend for years. She was also my massage therapist. When I saw her last February she was bubbling over with excitement and delight. She had just been sky diving for the first time! As she described the thrill of it, I made the mistake of say, “It sounds like fun”. A few weeks later she had called wanting me to set a date. I had the presence of mind to ask her about the altitude. When she told me 12,000 feet, I explained that with my troubles breathing at 4,000 feet altitude, my doctor would never approve. I had assumed that was the end of it.

Then on a Wednesday night in July she called to tell me that my friends Kathy and Stan Carr and Sharon and Lloyd were going tomorrow to jump and that she had arranged for oxygen for me in the plane. My excuse was gone. I figured I could gain courage from my friends, especially Stan and Kathy, although I did wonder about Stan’s hurt knee. It wasn’t until the next morning after I got in the van, that I found out it would only be Lloyd and I jumping. When we got to the hanger in Lompoc, we had to fill out a long legal form that needed to be initialed every 2 or 3 lines. I carefully read it hoping to find a loop hole to get me out of this. Ah, at last, I found on page 3, “I have told my doctor I am going to do this and my doctor approves”. “Hey, Shelly I called out I can’t initial this. I haven’t told my doctor and I won’t lie”. Shelly called out to Lloyd our psychiatrist friend – “Hey Lloyd is it okay if Bev jumps?” Lloyd said “Sure” and my last excuse was gone.

As the plane lifted off I was thinking that if this killed me, at least I had lived an interesting and full life. And, if I didn’t make it, it would be an interesting way to go. Although I hated flying I decided I might as well enjoy the view and look out at the beautiful Lompoc flower fields. The instructor hooked us both together and instructed me to tuck my legs back when he told me to and to keep my hands hooks in the straps. We had been the first in and we would be the last out. The wind poured in when they opened the doors. I watched the others go. Then it was our turn. I tucked my legs under as told. He leaned over. I have enough trouble with balance on land. When he leaned over I thought I was going to fall flat on y face inside the plane and instinctively put my feet down. I tucked them under as he straightened up, but could not stop the instinct when he leaned over again. He finally had to give me a big shove to get out the door, and then I could tuck my feet under.

My Certificate reads: “Be it known that Beverly Hardy has experienced that adrenaline rush of a lifetime, by willfully leaving a perfectly good airplane at 13,000 feet, and flying earthrward in excess of 120 mph –

The free fall was only supposed to last a minute. When I finally got up the nerve to open my eyes, I was face down with the earth rushing up to meet me. I closed them again and started counting to 60. I got to 30 seconds and figured it should be over, but it seemed to take forever for the parachute to gently open and slow us down. The instructor had asked me several times on the way down if I was okay. I just nodded my head yes and was amazed I could hear him. Then as we floated gently down I enjoyed the flower fields and the colorful parachutes below us.

Yes, I did it once and will never do it again. I felt good having done it, to know I had conquered my fear. There was another added benefit. My husband died 8 years ago. This was the first time in 8 years I had sat in a man’s lap. A friend asked if I had screamed on the way down and I told her, “No, I was afraid my dentures would fall out.” Yes I did it once and will PROBABLY never do it again!!

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