Relationships with our children can be touching. Especially at 14,500 feet. That’s where Joe DiDonato of West Milford, New Jersey discovered a new dimension to his relationship with his son.
Call me a late-bloomin’ boomer. By conventional standards I married later in life, and my wife and I delayed having children. Thus, we have a 25 year-old son, who recently married.
I did not expect to be invited to his bachelor party. After all, boomers are not coveted bachelor party attendees. Nevertheless, one day he said, “Dad, I want you to come to my bachelor party. We are going skydiving. Will you jump with me?”
I had never tried skydiving nor was it an item on my bucket list. Still, I was deeply touched by his wanting me at his side. Immediately I replied, “If you jump, I’ll jump. I’ve got your back.”
On the scheduled day, our bachelor party group arrived at the airport for a tandem jump. A “tandem jump” is simply two people harnessed together and sharing one parachute. Fortunately, one of those people is a highly trained and experienced skydive instructor who does all the work. During the fifteen-minute plane ride I was seated behind my son and his instructor. I reached over the instructor and placed my hand on my son’s shoulder to signal that I was at his back.
At 14,500 feet my instructor and I followed my son and his instructor out of the cabin door and into another dimension called “freefall.” (To adequately describe freefall would take this entire blog space, and maybe then some. Suffice it to say, for first-timers, freefall is astounding.) As I fell I scanned the vast expanse of sky still below me for a glimpse of my son. He and I were separated by a few thousand feet and both falling at 120 mph, so trying to find him was futile. I just hoped he was safe.
After a leisurely six-minute ride under the parachutes, we reunited in the landing zone amidst hugs, fist bumps, and a huge adrenaline rush. There are some events in our lives that imprint their memories on our hearts, never to fade. For me, skydiving with my son is now one of them.
Recently, my son gave me a small, jagged piece of fabric. He said, “Dad, thanks for packing my parachute.” I was bewildered. He explained that he had cut the fabric from a real parachute and that his statement was not meant to be taken literally. It was his way of thanking me for all the help and support I had given him over the years. The fabric lying in my hand, which initially appeared to be a scrap of debris, now appeared priceless.
My son also mentioned that he is thinking about skydiving again. If he asks me to go with him, I know what I will say. “If you jump, I’ll jump. I’ve got your back.”