MAKE-A-WISH—For An Old Lady

By Steve Parker

Parachuting

 

Naomi was ready to celebrate a birthday…she would be eighty years old, or as she often was heard to proclaim with a sparkle in her eye and an impish grin… “eighty going on seventy-three.” A strong sturdy woman from Swedish heritage, she had been a wife and teammate to husband Fred for more than fifty years before he lost his battle to cancer and left her to grieve his loss.

She moved on with eager anticipation of her new life. She quickly returned to her hobby of knitting lap blankets for those in wheel chairs and soon developed a group of a dozen women who joined in the effort. Always the organizer, she was a natural to be chosen the designated captain of the shuffleboard and bridge clubs. To everyone at the village Naomi became the go-to person for many of the activities.

Naomi looked forward to today’s visit from her grandson Mike. He often teased her claiming he was exhausted, just keeping abreast of her active social life. This visit, however, was even more of a surprise when she told him of her eightieth birthday wish. She laughingly proclaimed it to be a “Make-A-Wish for an Old Lady.”

Naomi had thought about her wish for months and had anticipated Mike’s response. She had detailed her arguments against his objections but almost burst into tears when his only response was, “Are you sure?” She hugged Mike tightly with a tear in her eye and nodded in the affirmative. For a moment she saw in Mike’s face an image of her late husband Fred when Mike enthusiastically exclaimed, “Okay, let’s do it!”

Spending the next week arranging the details Mike picked Naomi up early Sunday morning and they were like little children sneaking down the hallway and escaping through the front door while most of the residents were still sleeping. As they drove south through Phoenix, the Arizona desert landscape became a beautiful panorama of purple hues and soft gold as the rising sun welcomed the summer day. Naomi lowered the window and enjoyed the fresh cool air, smiling in anticipation of what was to come.

Mike turned off the highway onto a gravel road which meandered for several miles until, in the distance a rounded metal building stood shining in the morning sun with an orange wind sock to the right. Turning into the drive a sign reading Adobe Mountain Parachuting and Glider Rides, Naomi sat up even straighter in her seat and began to tingle with anticipation.

She was first to alight from the car with Mike trotting after her, enjoying her eagerness. She entered the building and to her left she could see an assortment of flight suits neatly hanging on hooks with helmets, scarves and eye wear arranged next to each. She hesitated and then walked over to the large pillow shapes she knew were the parachutes and excitement filled her body. Seeing Mike standing at the counter she hurried over to join him.

The young man behind the counter greeted them both and looked at Mike. “Have you ever parachuted before?” Mike tried to present a solemn face, but a little grin gave him away when he pointed to Naomi who was wide-eyed and said, “Not me…HER!”

Looking down at the paperwork to hide both his embarrassment and amusement, the clerk mumbled, “Sorry Mam, I just assumed…” Undaunted, Naomi scooped up the paperwork and hurriedly began filling in the blanks as if to say, “Let’s get this show on the road!”

Once finished, the young man took both she and Mike to the area where she donned a flight suit and received a helmet and eye wear. Explaining the procedure, Naomi was so excited she hardly heard a word. They inspected the parachutes, as if anyone could tell whether they were packed correctly or not. Her instructor explained there would be a jump master attached to her and introduced her to a young man named Jim who smiled and seemed to admire her age.

After a short instruction video, Naomi was escorted to the plane, a white single prop Cassena already idling on the runway with a large open door and a step on the passenger side. Striding confidently, Naomi went to the door, stepped up and entered the empty shell of the plane. She greeted the smiling pilot and sat on the bench as instructed with the jump master behind her. Being securely tethered to her new best friend, she smiled when the pilot explained they would circle until they reached the 13,000 feet, jump altitude. The third passenger was the photographer who was ready to video her exciting experience.

After take-off wind engulfed the compartment making it difficult for Naomi to hear until she heard the voice of the jump master in her ear telling her to scoot forward toward the open door. The photographer exited first standing on the step just outside the open door. Hanging on he motioned his readiness to begin the filming and soon Naomi and Jim were seated at the opening. Both she and Jim waved to the photographer and then suddenly she was airborne.

Naomi had anticipated the feeling of flying but this was an incredible new experience. As if she were an eagle, she spread her arms and shrieked with joy as she saw the ground far below, wishing the sensation to last forever. After an extended free fall, the jump master told her to pull the rip cord on the parachute and it was as if they suddenly stopped mid-air.

The photographer had fallen faster opening his chute so he could film the decent and catch the wonderment in Naomi’s expression. Then falling even faster, he was on the ground to capture the landing. Just before landing the jump master told her to lift her feet and he brought them in with a soft, gentle on their butt landing. Mike rushed over to see if all went well, but seeing her laugh and smile was all he needed.

After changing out of the jump suit, Naomi seemed to talk on fast speed while waiting for the video to be processed. They both laughed in amazement as they watched the video of Naomi giving the “thumbs up” to the photographer.

With video in hand, they began walking to the car and passing the desk, Naomi stopped and turned toward the young man. “Hey, how old was the oldest person who ever jumped here?” The young man smiled and said, “Eighty-three, Mam.’” She turned, looked at Mike and back to the young man. Smiling she said, “I’ll be back!”

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