After college I wound up in an unhealthy relationship. I was depressed and needed to do something about it. One of my coworkers, Ray, had recently started skydiving and was always encouraging people to come to the Ranch in Gardiner, New York, to try it. I was pretty desperate, so I figured, “What the hell?”
The DZ was full of life, busy and bursting with energy. After watching the Bill Booth video, I signed my life away. On the ride to altitude, I was listening to “The End” by the Doors. Appropriate and poetic … “my only friend, the end.” After exiting the plane, I did everything my tandem instructor asked, and I waved off and pulled. I held onto the ripcord (back then, they came out), so I didn’t have to buy a case of beer.
I tried to share the experience with my girlfriend. But I knew it was over. “My friend, the end.”
I traveled to Skydive DeLand in Florida to go through the AFF program, beginning the journey of becoming my own person and doing what I should be doing. The day of my trip, a coworker (and my future wife) asked me why I was doing it. (She, like most people, thought I was nuts.) I just hopped on my motorcycle in the rain and headed for DeLand to meet Ray. What a week! Ray and I became great friends. I graduated from AFF and continued my journey, at first to Dallas and then back to New York. I made the Ranch my second home. Ray and I would meet there almost every weekend, both days, to jump as much as we could.
One of the top executives at my company had been skydiving a little longer than me. We met up at the Ranch, which was the same day he had a skydiving incident. Aside from some minor scrapes and bruises, he was fine, but he stopped skydiving for good. But we had bonded. I would see him at work, and instead of passing me by like some schlub, he saw me as an equal. Having the connection was friggin’ cool!
I joined Ray in recruiting people from work to jump. My future wife was one of the few who made the trip to the DZ. We were on the same load when she and her friends made their tandem skydives. I gave her a kiss on the cheek that day, and that changed both our lives forever.
Ray and I visited different DZs. We attended the biggest boogie in the world at the time: the 1993 World Freefall Convention in Quincy, Illinois. We jumped the jet and made a high-altitude jump. We were the only clothed people on a naked tandem load. We also got in Mike McGowan’s video. An unforgettable week!
When my future wife and I got engaged, I hung up my rig. There was no conflict, it was just that skydiving had completed me. I had done something special in my life, and it gave me what I needed to move forward. Though I haven’t been jumping, I’ve never let my USPA membership lapse, and I continue to read Parachutist. Skydiving has given me the confidence to take on things in my life that I need.
I brought my son up to the Ranch on his 18th birthday. When the Twin Otter took off, I was in tears. The sight, sound and smell brought back those great times and the feelings of freedom. The emotion came rushing in. Fly, baby, fly! I felt like my journey had come full circle. A year later, my brother and I made tandems. He thanked me for days, because he finally understood. My daughter has been ready to go since forever, and we’re waiting for her 18th birthday. I can’t wait to take her.
Rex Rossbach | A-14716
Whitestone, New York