Hitting 40

I blew my emergency $50, the one I keep stashed in my wallet for car wrecks and natural disasters, on junk food. This is a kind of emergency; I plan to spend the next 36 hours eating only stuff that isn’t good for me. In 36 hours, I will be entering middle age. I will be 40.

I like adventure. I moved to New York when I was 16. I joined the Army at 18. I became a cop at 21. I traveled through war torn areas of Europe when I was 30. I was on a security detail in Atlanta when the bomb exploded at the Olympics when I was 32. And I like to live on the edge. I tore the tag off my pillow when I was 10. I replaced my windshield wipers when I was 27. I wore lacy bras on patrol in case the paramedics needed to rip my shirt off to save my life. I ate my first Jujube when I was 39. So, when everyone asked what I wanted for my 40th birthday, I decided to jumpstart my transition to middle age. Rather than be inundated with silly gifts, I decided to ask for donations for my skydiving fund.

The best things in life aren’t things. I already have enough stuff to dust. At my age, it’s time to make a little change, nothing huge, just a slight turn off the path, a couple of errant steps to alter my destiny. I like to travel and experience different cultures so skydiving seemed appropriate. I can fly to Paris any day. It’s time to experience the culture of the mid-troposphere.

I’m not an idiot. I remember the lesson I learned about gravity while climbing trees as a child. I learned it well enough to break two collarbones. But, at age 40, I figure, what the heck? At my age, I can put all my eggs in one basket, and dance in traffic, if I choose. I can throw caution to the wind. It’s either that or rent a limo with some girlfriends and watch naked 20-year-old boys dance at a women’s club.

Most people reacted to my birthday wish by saying, “Why jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” Well, why do astronauts leave a perfectly good Earth? Why did the chicken cross the road? It’s the journey, not the destination. Most people go to their graves with their music still inside them. I don’t want to be one of those people. And I want to step into 40 instead of running away from it. There are very few things in life that can’t be undone – stepping out of that plane will be one of them. Besides, how many opportunities will I have to be securely strapped to a thrill-seeking hunk? Not many, unless I take my handcuffs out of retirement.

My friend Cheryl has been dodging this year since the day after her 35th birthday. She once said, “You’re my best friend but I’m not going over a cliff for you.” When I announced my skydiving plans, she told me I have “thrill issues” and am “crazy”. When I explained that I had my physiatrist’s permission to jump, she thought I said “psychiatrist” and rushed to the conclusion that I really am insane. How’s that for a best friend? I argued that falling at 100+ mph could work better than a facelift, raising our eyelids to our hairlines. Then I suggested that she wasn’t young enough at heart to take a chance. After some soul searching, she decided to jump with me, 45 days before her own 40th. I’ve promised to push her out of the plane if she hesitates. I understand the risks. If I jump after her and she vomits, I will be drenched in it. But I’ll take the chance because I’m a good friend. And just think, if we splat, we’ll be put into the same trash bag by burly men with shovels. Best friends forever.

My little brother, Jeff, is coming, too. Our Mom vacillated for about a week. She has always made us promise to push her out of a plane if she ever becomes old and cantankerous. Well, she’s old (64) so this is my opportunity to keep that promise. She’s going with us.

People think we’re nuts for wanting to jump out of a plane. Life is full of decisions - what to eat, what to wear, when to move forward and when to back up. It’s not the decision you make but that you make the decision. If my destiny is death by deceleration trauma, then I want to enjoy the ride down. And if I jump on my 40th birthday, my tombstone will be nice and tidy.

I read somewhere that a parent’s advice to a child should be, “In life, you will come to a great chasm. Jump, it’s not as wide as you think.


Jill Wragg is a retired police officer in Massachusetts.
She can be reached at JKWragg@yahoo.com

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