About six months before the day and feeling very proud of myself for thinking ahead, I asked Jack what he wanted to do for his 18th birthday.
Now he had been saying that since he was fourteen but up until now it hadn't been an issue because you have to be 18 years old to go skydiving. But this year, well...he was going to be 18.
It was still a long way off until his birthday in August so I put it out of my mind thinking he's likely to forget.
Come Summer, we realize our whole family is going to be at the beach for his birthday.
So I re-ask the question, making some suggestions of activities that all the kids could do...I mean, he and my oldest niece are the only two old enough to skydive...
"Hey Jack, what do you want to do for your birthday? Do you want to parasail, rent jet skies, what? Want to do something with all your cousins?"
"I want to skydive." Oh boy. He hadn't given that up.
So I did some research.
I found a place for tandem jumps that flies out of the Ocean City Municipal airport and NO accidents to date.
That's good but there's always a first time right?
So I watched a ton of their videos and read the online reviews. I liked how much they shared online and that transparency made me feel more confident.
I made the reservation.
For both of us.
Hey, I was there when he was born so if he was going to leave this earth on his 18th birthday, I was going with him.
He was not about to jump out of a perfectly good airplane but he had the harder job of watching the two people he loves most in the world hurtle toward the earth.
My oldest niece decided to jump as well. We spent at least a half hour watching videos and reading disclaimers of the many different ways that people and equipment could fail leading to death, dismemberment and/or paralysis.
Jack signed without hesitation. My niece and I read every word and decided to go anyway despite the fact that we were surely going to die.
Unfortunately for my niece, she had to go first with some dude she didn't know. She was very brave...
and she lived!! She was up and back before we had even left the ground.
She loved it! And said that the scariest part of the whole thing was being told all the different ways that she could die.
One down, two to go.
We kissed goodbye to our precious family...
And headed across the tarmac to board the plane.
The two men that were jumping with us were awesome.
Jack had Top Gun (his name is Josh)...
And I had Ponytail Dude (Daniel).
I couldn't be happier since I felt like I knew both of these guys from watching all their videos. They always looked like they were having so much fun (you'll see what I mean in the videos) and Daniel's ponytail was always flying straight upward hence my nickname for him...
I was a little worried about Jack because he was so tall and a bit bigger than Top Gun...he had to duck his head...
And fold himself into the airplane...
Only so he could unfold himself when we got to 10,000 feet and it was time to jump.
One minute he was there...
And the next minute he was gone...
I haven't seen him smile that big in years. Check it out. He smiles the whole way.
Once his parachute opened, Top Gun pointed to a black dot in the sky...
"See that dot there, Jack?"
"That's your Mom."
Meanwhile, I had expected to have any number of scenarios...feeling like I was going to throw up, body quaking from fear, etc.
What I didn't expect was the pure rush of adrenaline and unbridled joy.
It was indescribable really. I was awe-struck, experiencing intense wonder and amazement at rapid-fire speed.
If I had died in that moment, it would have been beautiful.
I've never experienced anything like it.
I had expected to be scared witless, counting every second until the chute opened.
Nothing was further from the truth.
When the chute finally did open, I was a bit disappointed because the intense exhilaration ended and the experience shifted.
The parachute-assisted ride to earth was like a lazy, afternoon stroll in comparison to the free-fall, belly-diving "trip" before.
After landing safely, it was a lot to take in.
And my strong, silent Jack was back...
Right beside his non-silent Mom.
What a birthday.
Almost as good as the one eighteen years ago.