The fear was like nothing she’d ever known. It gripped her like a vice, squeezing the breath right out of her. She could feel her heart threatening to pound its way out of her chest. The feeling of being trapped in her own body unable to speak or move sent waves of panic surging through her body.
Even though her body wasn't moving, her mind was racing like a runaway train. What was she thinking? Why did she ever contemplate doing something like this? She was way too old and maybe a little senile because who would ever consider doing this at her age?
But there was no going back; it was either now or never. . . .
Margaret Lorraine Johnson was born in Caddo, Oklahoma in her grandmother’s bedroom on April 20, 1932. Herbert Hoover was president, a loaf of bread cost seven cents and the whole country was in the midst of the Great Depression.
During her eighty year lifetime Marge (no one ever called her Margaret) had observed as the world went to war against the Nazis. She had experienced blackouts and air raid drills and had witnessed the building and tearing down of the Berlin wall. She’d lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis when the country was on the brink of nuclear war and had mourned the death of John F Kennedy with the rest of the nation.
Marge had seen fourteen presidents take office and had voted for five of them. She'd listened to the radio about news from Pearl Harbor and had watched on television as the planes hit the World Trade Towers. She’d heard Martin Luther King Jr. speak on racism at the March on Washington and had witnessed the horror of the Rodney King riots in Los Angles. She’d observed with a profound dread the Watergate trials, the Iran Contra affair and the Monica Lewinski scandal.
Marge had not only seen dramatic changes in history but she had watched as the world was turned upside down with the explosion of technology. She learned that apples weren’t just something you ate, that people can twitter just as much as birds and bytes don’t hurt. She discovered that surfing wasn’t just for young people anymore and a yahoo wasn’t just a no good scoundrel trying to steal her money.
Most of the people her age had no use for cell phones or the internet; they had resigned themselves to living in a nursing home and had surrendered to the pain of old age but not Marge.
She’d raised nine children, buried her husband when she was forty, cared for more grandchildren than she cared to count and was not about to call it quits. The way she saw it, she was just getting started!
She hadn’t always felt that way. In fact just two short years ago she had done just what many of her friends were doing now. She had curled up in the fetal position and waited to die.
It only took one annual visit with the doctor and the dreaded C word to take all the wind out of her sails. Maybe she should just give in and call it quits. It was another four months of feeling sorry for herself and the death of a lifelong friend to propel her to look at her life for what it really was. Was she really willing to just sit around and wait for death to knock on her door?
That’s when she decided! Life was too short to sit back and wait. What did she have to lose?
That night she started her list . . .
And that’s why she was celebrating her eightieth birthday twelve thousand feet in the air dangling her feet out the side of an airplane. The fear was like nothing she’d ever experienced before and not something she wanted to experience again, frankly. But what was life if you didn’t really live? She felt the fear release its grip and she was finally able to breathe again.
She inhaled deeply and slowly let it all out, signaled to her jump partner and pushed off. . .
-Fictional writing but based on the story of an eighty year old woman who jumped out of a plane recently on her birthday.
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