For several months leading up to my Halloween Birthday boy’s 18th birthday, he had been asking us to help him coordinate paddling his kayak down Class 5 white water rapids.
William also wanted to skydive on his birthday. After all, it’s not every day that a fellow turns 18. It should be a memorable day.
In fact, it was also memorable in that he would cast his first ballot, in the November general election. His older sister had voted a few times but never in the general. We had plans to go over to the library polling place and Rose, Reedy, William and I would vote together. This was a particularly important event, and we were all excited.
For years, Rose and I took the children with us to observe the process as we voted. We also would have an impromptu civics lesson, as we would place voting into a larger context.
They were familiar with the struggle to enlarge the franchise from property-owning white men to include all races, genders and degrees of physical ability or disability. It has been one of the foundational accomplishments of our American democracy.
With respect to the other two birthday priorities, we could pull off only one of the two. We put in quite an effort to prepare for the white water kayak adventure. First, William and I drove to Columbus, Ga., for a little refresher course. A few days later, we made our way to the Green River Narrows in North Carolina and the serious Class 5 white water.
Unfortunately, the conditions there were too dangerous, as the dam above the Narrows was releasing water into the river on a schedule more aggressive than we thought prudent to run.
We, of course, had a default position: skydiving.
After much research and consultation with our neighbor, who is also a private pilot, we determined that JumpGeorgia in Sylvania, Ga., was the place to go. I made reservations and, several days later, our neighbor was kind enough to fly us there.
We got an early start, leaving Ridgeland for the short hop to Sylvania, arriving at the JumpGeorgia hangar to join a small crowd of folks waiting their turns.
We were soon on board, with William anxious to jump from 15,000 feet, the highest altitude they offer, which features a full minute of tandem free fall.
We banked out of a cloud at 15,000 feet. William was standing in the door. I blinked, and he was gone.
We met back on the tarmac, and William was grinning from ear to ear. His birthday was indeed memorable. I was so proud of my newly adult son. He stepped out into the air without a moment’s hesitation.
If fate is kind, one day William and his son or daughter will take a day every once in a while to create such a bonding adventure. William and I had a great day. Sometimes “one out of two” is just enough.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives. WestonNewton@schouse.gov