Father’s Day @ 9,000 Feet

Terry Wilson and I are not related, share no common blood, friends, life skills, or job interests. We do share the fact that we were once married to the same woman (not at the same time)…and one other critical thing. We share, along with Mary Beth, an uncommonly common bond.

We share daughters.

It came to light as I contemplated the lunacy of jumping 9,000 feet to my certain death.  Well, not actually certain death…the previous hundreds before me that attempted skydiving had never discovered that sudden, breath-taking impact. They all survived. And so would I, I concluded, while I waited in the terminal (inappropriate choice of words I think) for my time to come…my first skydive. A gift from my daughter and step-daughters for Father’s Day.

What happened to the time-worn tradition of a gaudy tie and a hug? Or maybe just a casual dinner with goofy cards?  I encouraged them to be creative but this was outside the lines.

Layne is my birth daughter. Tiffany and Hailey are Terry’s birth daughters, who became my step-daughters by marriage. We all know the differences, yet the heart forgets and takes it own course. All three girls became full sisters in heart and mind, and remain so today.

So today, here we all were, blood and not, celebrating Father’s Day with Terry and Ray. We shared the father-feast with Elmer, Tiffany’s husband, and granddaughters Lily and Rosalie. And with Tom, Hailey’s soon-to-be hubby who would later father grandson Finn.

It was a good excuse to gather. My eventual plunge headfirst into open air from 9,000 feet, dropping like a rock toward the patchwork of verdant fields below, was literally a leap of faith. It defies the natural senses to look down, see nothing but a mile and a half of open air…and then step out anyway. The knowledge that I was plummeting toward the earth at 62.4 feet-per-second was exhilarating. Then at 6,000 feet, feeling the reassuring “catch” of the parachute as it responded to my tug on the rip cord… that was exhilarating. And as Mike (my tandem coach) and I glided down, using the guide lines to perform several 360’s, challenging my stomach to keep the faith, the thrill of the gentle descent through clean country air at dusk was part peaceful and part exhilaration as well.

But as I glided closer and closer to the landing zone, my extended family waiting and cheering and laughing and videotaping every goofy move, I found a strange exhilaration that was un-related to physics or gravity or the environment, but rather of the pure joy of the moment.

My skydive was without a doubt a “high” point in my life.  Certainly part of it was the actual plunge from a perfectly good airplane.  But most of my emotional high originated and ended at ground zero, as I realized how my daughters had planned, organized, coordinated, participated in, and paid for such a luxury.  The thought was original and a little bizarre, the picnic spread impeccably planned, and the cumulative party one for my mental highlight reels.

But I measured the success of the entire day as I quietly observed the entire group, gathering, hugging, laughing, sharing, living the moment. It was quite spellbinding. I watched an un-choreographed dynamics of beautiful daughters, step-daughters, grand-daughters, amazingly original sons-in-law, even ex-husbands of ex-wives, all bonding in one mass of laughter and joy, forsaking all parts past for the joy of parts present and the promise of parts future.

I know the day was not entirely mine.  I caught Terry several times beaming with paternal pride. And Elmer’s shared joy, with two perfect daughters of his own, was clearly equal to ours.  But I did realize a virtual “high” on this day I may never be able to adequately describe.

And the skydive was pretty cool, too.

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