|The three JOS minorities: DJan, Bob, Frankie|
And that has been the hard lesson to learn for so many of us. All of us, every one of us, has been on numerous formations this size or much larger, but they were not all comprised of the elder crowd. We haven't been closer than getting 14 people connected, and the record won't count unless every single one of us is in the formation, and in the correct spot. Today is our last day to attempt the feat, and I am not optimistic.
That doesn't mean it hasn't been fun and instructive. I didn't think I would be skydiving any more after I turned seventy, and here I am with 21 other peers who are still going strong. And four of our number are over eighty. The oldest one, Bud LaPointe, is 87. He is amazing and very inspiring to see. He is limping, along with all three of the people in the picture. I tweaked my knee on the first day while trying to run out a landing in low winds. Bob stepped off a ladder (a non-skydiving injury) and hurt his foot. Frankie had a bad landing yesterday and landed very hard on her knee. But we kept going, because the injuries can be worked around. This means less than perfect landings. I favored my knee all day long yesterday and today it feels much, much better. I am pretty sure it won't interfere today. Frankie found another jumper who had a knee brace and she wore it all day and is better. Bob is limping badly, but he's just landing on his butt with his foot out in front of him. It's working, because we don't want to let our friends down, we keep going, and the mood of all the skydivers is very upbeat, although the attempt to complete will probably not be successful.
Many of us are filled with hardware. The knee I tweaked has an ACL replacement, so there are two screws in there permanently. One guy has two knee replacements, a hip replacement, and hardware in his back. He's 82. He just doesn't want to stop skydiving, and he isn't as good as he used to be and won't admit it. I've observed him not doing well in freefall, sometimes blaming other people instead of himself. I suspect he knows inside that it's his own errors, but since he was so good for so long, he cannot bring himself to realize that there is no replacement for the skill he's lost. What needs to happen in formation skydiving is each of us needs to approach the base formation easily and softly, not disturbing it when we fly into our place in the skydive. The first jump yesterday, he had so much momentum as he approached that all six of the base formation were unable to maintain their grips. And that was the end of the skydive, although we still had plenty of time left to build the formation, it was destroyed right in front of our eyes.
But we went up again and tried again, and yet again. By the end of the day, we were getting a wee bit discouraged, but I think what will happen today is we will keep trying for the next four skydives and then sit around afterwards and celebrate anyway. Tomorrow I will hopefully return home to Bellingham, if the plane I am flying to Portland in is on time. Whatever happens, we will deal with it, we always do. One thing we have learned is that life is not always predictable.
We need to be at the Drop Zone bright and early, at 8:00am, and I need to get breakfast and take a quick shower first. Frankie is in the bathroom first, doing all that herself right now, and I need to get this finished before it's my turn. That means this particular Eye on the Edge post will be a bit shorter and not as contemplative as usual.
I do need to say that the hardest lesson I am learning here in Elsinore is to give up any expectations I might have had for success in this endeavor. It's not the reason for this gathering, but instead it's an opportunity to be inspired by each other. And to watch those I've admired for so many decades being humbled by time's inevitable ravages on our bodies and minds. But not on our spirits: they are stronger and more beautiful than ever. I am so proud to be a part of this group.
Not to mention I've already made eight skydives in two days and will probably make four or five more again today before it's all over. I hope we all stay safe and with a minimum of injuries before we head home. Next Sunday I will be back in my old groove, with my partner next to me as I write. It's 5:55am as I finish this. Until next week, stay well and happy. I insist.