To say Lissa went out kicking would be a gross understatement…
Well, let me start from the beginning.
After Ursula and I enthusiastically immersed ourselves into the sport of skydiving, Lissa decided she wanted to try it. Personally, I didn’t think this was a really good idea. There are just some people who should not jump. People who tend to freeze in crisis situations fall soundly into that category. I remember once when Lissa cut her finger and just stood there staring at it, while blood spurted forth out and ran down her arm. Another time a faulty outlet caught Ursula’s bedsheets on fire. I ran to the garage looking for the fire extinguisher, my mom ran to the telephone to call the fire department and my dad found the fire extinguisher in the kitchen and put out the fire. All the while Lissa screamed, “Oh my god! Fire! Fire! There’s a fire!”
But, Lissa really wanted to try skydiving and so I called the drop zone and put her name in for the first jump course that weekend. When Lissa showed up bright and early that Saturday morning, she was clearly hung over from too much partying the night before, no doubt a last hurrah before facing certain death. “Are you sure you want to do this?” I asked. She assured me she would just take the ground school that morning and jump on Sunday, since we were planning to stay at the DZ for the whole weekend. We drove through Micky D’s on the drive to the dropzone for some hangover breakfast, and she managed to spill pancake syrup onto the white leather seats of her electric blue convertible mustang. This caused a fit of histrionics and before long trays, napkins, forks, condiments and bags went flying out of the open car like an airplane undergoing an explosive decompression. I had a feeling it was going to be an interesting day.
At the dropzone Lissa was her usual funny self, and the instructors were never quite sure whether she was pulling their leg or she was really an incredibly spoiled airhead blonde (ish). At the end of the class, however, when it came time to suit up, she politely declined. “What do you mean, you don’t want to jump today?” The instructor was incredulous. She explained that she really didn’t feel up to jumping today, and that she would rather jump tomorrow. The instructor wouldn’t have it. It just wasn’t done that way. You took the class, now you make your jump. That’s the way it goes. Reluctantly she acquiesced.
Well, Lissa suited up and went up in the plane with the rest of her group, and came back down in the plane. When it came her turn to jump, she took one look out the door and this time her refusal was not so polite. Not only no, but HELL NO.
That night as we camped out in the loft, Lissa moped about having missed her opportunity. Bill, the jumpmaster, told her she could try again on Sunday if she wanted. I told her I would go along with her in the plane and exit behind her. Once she got under canopy she could look over and she’d see me flying by as well. I’d even land right beside her. While I really didn’t support the idea of her making regular skydives, I knew she’d never forgive herself if she didn’t make this one. She agreed.
Sunday afternoon, after the next ground school was finished, we suited up with the rest of the students and waited for our load. When our turn came, we loaded up in the Cessna, the jumpmaster, Lissa and me and a couple of other students. On the first pass over the DZ, the first student made a nice exit. On the second pass, out went the second student, nice and clean. Then it was Lissa’s turn. She got in the door, legs dangling, clinging to the doorframe. She looked ready to go — until she looked outside. She scrambled back inside. The jumpmaster, Bill, signaled the pilot to make another pass.
Again, Lissa got in the door. Again, she looked very determined. Again, she looked outside and subsequently panicked. Bill, quite generously, gave her still another pass.
On the third pass, I kept telling her not to look outside. Just push off. Don’t look out, just push off with your hands and go into a nice arch. Don’t look, Lissa. Please don’t look. Lissa looked.
As we started to head back to the airport, Lissa was clearly quite disappointed. Bill felt bad. “Do you want to try one more time?”
he asked. She nodded eagerly. Bill signaled the pilot and we went back for one more try. This time she was so close. She was in the door, her hands clutching the doorframe. I was sure she was going to do it. Don’t look Lissa, just go. Her face was squinched up in fear and determination. “I can’t. I just can’t.”
“Would you like some assistance?” Bill asked. “Yeah, Bill. Push her!” I yelled. “Just give her a big shove!”
Lissa nodded her head tentatively. Out the door she went.
Lissa flew her parachute like a champ and managed to flare for landing back at the DZ as instructed, but landed like a sack of potatoes anyway. I think her knees were too wobbly to attempt a stand-up landing. She had a big grin on her face, and we both had a very funny story to tell, as did Bill and Roger, the jump pilot, and we each told our versions over and over that evening, drinking beer in the loft with the other jumpers.