arrival · Dan's stories · September

Just the ticket

By Dan Seavers

IT all started when the tickets arrived.

It had been my Gran’s 75th birthday, and she’d invited all the family around for the usual cake and celebrations. Everything ran just as normal, until we got onto the presents.

She’d set them to one side, on the coffee table in the lounge, saving them to the very end of the party. They’d been a knitted teal jumper from my parents, a box of ginger chocolates from Uncle Terry, and I got her a bunch of red roses, her favourite.

But there was one present left.

It had come in the post that morning, and though it was only about the size of an envelope, it was nearly a quarter inch thick. Gran opened it, and paused.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s a ticket,” she said, with a chuckle.  “To go skydiving.”

It seemed the most ridiculous present anyone could have gotten her. Okay, she wasn’t exactly old yet, but she’d rarely been on a plane, never mind thought about jumping out of one. There must have been some sort of mistake.

“Nope,” dad said, reading the attached letter. “They’re definitely for you. Says here, they’re more than happy to accommodate the elderly, and they’ve seen your medical records, so you’ve got the green light to go.”

“How on earth did they get those?” Gran said.

“Doesn’t say. Or who it’s from.”

Gran eased herself into her chair and took a sip of tea.

“It must have been Jeff.” She said.

Jeff had been Gran’s brother. He was younger, by a good eight years, and he’d always teased her for getting old before him. Sadly, he’d not had the chance to catch her up, as he’d died three months prior.

“He always used to say I should do something crazy for my 75th.  Enjoy myself for a change. I bet he set it up before he died.”

“Well,” mum said. “It was a good joke and all, but we’ll have to sell them or something.  Use the money for something you’d like.”

“I’m going to do it,” Gran said.

“Mum,” Dad said. “Don’t be daft. You can’t do something like that? Not at your age?”

“And why not?” She pulled herself up out of her chair and steadied herself on her feet.  “Okay. I’m not a spring chicken. But if they said that I’m well enough to do it, then there’s nothing stopping me. And anyway, Jeff wanted me to, so there.”

If you were to describe my Gran, the word stubborn would be at the top of the list every time. So nobody argued with her. We just hoped she’d grow bored of the idea, or it would scare her off after a few days.

We underestimated how stubborn she really was.

***

And so the day of the jump came along. The original letter had been right. There was no reason she couldn’t have jumped. We even took her to the doctor to make sure, and he signed her off.

“I’d love to do something like that when I’m your age,” he said, much to Dad’s annoyance.

The only reprieve we could hope for was bad weather, but that day, everything seemed to be on her side. A lovely blue sky, with only slight winds. Perfect jumping weather they said. Great.

And so we stood on the side of the runway with Gran. We’d all gone along to wish her well.  Or at least see her for one last time. They’d found her a jumpsuit a couple of sizes too big, so that the sleeves dangled way below her wrists.

“I always said red was my colour,” she said with a smile.

“Mum,” Dad said. “You can still call it off you know. We won’t think any less of you. And Jeff will still be proud of what you’ve achieved so far.”

“I’m still doing it,” she said. “You only live once.”

“That’s what I’m worried about.”

“Don’t worry,” the instructor said, walking over. He was all teeth and hair. “She’ll be fine with me. We’ve done this thousands of times, and rarely have a problem.”

“Rarely?”  Dad was paler than Gran.

“I kid. There’s never a problem. We’ll be back down before you know it. Though not too quick, or we’ll go splat.”

Dad went a little green.

“So, we’re all packed and ready. Just need you on board.” Gran gave us a nod. Dad gave her a hug, and she hobbled off towards the plane.

About halfway there, she stopped and headed back towards us.

“I knew it,” Dad said, trying not to sound too relieved. “She’s calling it off.”

She stopped in front of Dad.

“I almost forgot,” she said. “Can you look after these?” And she slipped her dentures out and dropped them into Dad’s hand. “Don’t ant em opping out.” Then she turned and headed back to the plane.

They helped her up onto the plane, and closed the door. All we could do was stand and watch as it taxied to the runway and took off.

“One good thing though,” I said. “If she doesn’t make it, you’ve got her dental record right there.”

Dad didn’t find it funny.

***

We watched from a distance, as the plane took off. It rose into the air, gaining height, as it slowly circled the airfield.

I peered up through my binoculars, and it came into focus. They must have reached their final height, as the rear door was now open, and I could just about see parachutists preparing to jump. And then they went. One. Then another. And then, I saw Gran come to the door. She was strapped into the instructor, like a large baby carrier. I saw them mutter something to each other.

And then they jumped.

“That one’s her,” I said. Pulling the binoculars away, she was barely a speck in the sky.

“Are you sure?” Dad said.

“You can take a look if you’d like?”

“I’ll pass.”

She flowed through the air, surrounded by some of the other jumpers. They swayed and twisted towards the ground.

“Shouldn’t they have opened their parachutes by now?” Mum said.

“I’m sure they know what they’re doing,” Dad said. Though he didn’t look it.

And finally, the chute opened and they slowed into a calm drop. All of us let out a breath.  By then, we could make out Gran, her grey perm all mangled and twisted by the wind.

“She seems okay,” Mum said.

***

At last, they reached the ground. The instructor landed first, and helped ease Gran onto her feet. We dashed over.

“So how was it?” I asked

“Marvellous,” she said with a smile. “I know just what him upstairs sees every day. It’s all very beautiful.”

“Good,” Dad said. “I’m glad you enjoyed it. You can say you did it.”

“Oh?  I was thinking of coming again next week.”

Dad went pale again.

“I’m kidding. Though, it’ll be hard to top this for my 80th. I was thinking maybe white water rafting. We could do it all together. As a family.”

Dad went paler.

“But never mind that for now. Let’s go get a nice cup of tea.”

© Dan Seavers 2016

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