My Bride announced she was going to jump out of a perfectly good airplane and would I like to join her, my brother TJ Bustem and his son, RJ? I felt a moment of panic and controlled the urge to lose my cookies, so to speak. “Do I have to” I whined?
“Of course not” she replied and I immediately began my plan to stand on the ground and watch, video and record the whole episode. I would brave the tarmac. I would stand for seven hours under the brutal sun at the private airport of Skydive Houston near Waller, Texas and not utter a disparaging word. I would be a trooper. My sister-in-law and her other son would also endure this self-abusive and death-defying act by our loved ones. He is LT and he has four jumps under his belt already and since he is under another group of aerial jumpers, he decided to observe his Dad and brother this time instead of jumping.
My Bride also told me she intended to sprinkle a portion of my son’s ashes over the Texas sky, something he would have wanted. My son Nick died suddenly this past April 16th and was a victim of posttraumatic stress disorder associated with his combat missions in Iraq. We had him cremated and I have his ashes in a container in my closet, for lack of making a decision on his final resting place.
The day came July 3rd, 2009 and we made the relative short drive to Skydive Houston near Waller. To my surprise the place was “jumping” with activity. We were instructed to arrive by 9:00 am, but our party didn’t actually board the plane until 3:15 pm. After the obligatory video and safety instruction they were placed in group “Otter seven”. The groups were called “Otters” because the airplane being used, was a DeHavilland Twin Otter (DHC-6).
Repeatedly, I was asked if I would like to jump and I answered as candidly as possible and said, “No, I’m scared”. I figured this was as close to the truth as I could make it. I’ve done plenty of stupid and dangerous things in my life to prove myself (to me) without adding jumping out of a moving airplane while flying at 14,000 feet. One of many possible examples was walking down an overgrown jungle path in the Cobra Triangle of Central Thailand, because it was closer to my destination than taking a bus – by myself – at night – without a flashlight. In my feeble logic, this seems like skydiving would be a welcome exchange of bravery – or stupidity.
We watched the Otter taxi away and since this was the seventh group of skydivers, we knew the fly pattern. About eleven minutes later I watched as the chutes began to magically appear high above us. We had questioned each member of our group as to what color of chute each had and my Bride’s was blue with one large red stripe on the end. Within a minute or two they were all on the ground safely, smiling and showing no signs of wear other than a sweat shine.
We bought the video. Buy the video and if you can get Stacey as your videographer, she will do you right, I promise. My Bride's tandem instructor was named Aaron and he couldn't of been better.
I asked my Bride how it all went and she told me she had successfully released our son’s ashes and she felt a sense of relief.
As we left the airfield, I noticed all three skydivers were slipping off into a state of relaxation. I was simply hungry. Will they do it again? Who knows, but I will remain grounded, if I have my wishes.
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