By: Ethan Maurice
The photograph above was taken this May. I'm in the upper left, in the bottom right corner is my grandma. Her name is Fran. Everyone at the skydiving facility seemed to think it was amazing that at 84 years old, she wanted to jump out the door of a plane from 10,000ft above the earth.
Everyone that is, except her.
So for my first interview for The Living Theory, I feel she's the ideal subject and her story, a perfect portrayal of what this site is about. Without further ado, my grandma, Fran Rice, 84 years of age and still young.
Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions! Let's jump right into it. What first interested you? Why did you agree to go skydiving?
Last year, I overheard you and your brother, Reid, discussing an intent to skydive. My mind went into overdrive. All my life I have wanted to fly like a bird, unhampered, gliding through the skies, scanning features below. It sounded wonderful.
I asked if I might join you and the response, “Sure, join us." How could I resist!
I was pleasantly surprised that you so nonchalantly wanted to join. Most people get nervous just thinking about jumping out of a plane. Making the decision usually takes a bit of time to build up the courage to say yes. Could you describe the experience for everyone?
You and I were the first on and the last off in the plane load of jumpers. We were already loosely harnessed to our companion divers, both Vet’s. Yours with 10,000 jumps under his belt as Marine trainer. Mine with not as many jumps, but still highly experienced.
We received a few directions as the plane climbed and casually chatted over the roar of the engine until at about 10,000 feet. I felt my body in its harness pulled tightly against the body harness of my parachute companion. The sound of clips, then goggles were placed over my eyes. He asked, “Ready?" to which I said, “Yes!” As those before us disappeared out the door, we inched ourselves down the metal parallel seating benches towards the open door.
Suddenly, I was out. Flying in free fall! My impression - COLD air rushing by and awareness of speed. Then, almost as suddenly it seemed, I felt the pull of the billowing beautiful parachute above us. I was thrilled! My companion was asking, “Fran, which did you like best, the free fall or this gliding?" I couldn’t choose at the moment. But I would say, today, the gliding, as we gently circled down over fields and desert. A bird flew by in front of us with whom I felt an immediate kinship and laughed. Too soon came a direction. “Raise your knees as we land.” In doing so, I felt we must look like ducks landing in water, webbed feet raised for impact. Funny.
Down, my harness was loosened and I was given a push up to find myself on solid ground once more. Such exhilaration! What a ride! My excitement and happiness was dampened only by realizing that it was over – much too quickly. We four walked back toward grinning family members with grins on our own faces. We shook hands with our sky divers and I decided then and there, I wanted another dive.
Many people were impressed you wanted to skydive at 84 years old, but you didn't think it was anything special. Could you explain?
People commented “Aren’t you scared?” or “Are you crazy?” or cautioned, ”what if...” None of which made an impact on me. I do not wallow in “what if’s.” Never have, no matter my age. That is not who I am.
Life is full of challenges, some delightful, some dispiriting, some you just have to plow through. And you do. With each challenge you become more resilient and more confident, all the while polishing that essential component of longevity: flexibility.
I trust my perceptions and when something feels right, I embrace it. After all, I married your grandfather after knowing him only six whirlwind weeks. Chemistry wins again. Our almost 64 years together brought us six children, some ups and downs as in any marriage, but the chemistry remains. Even as his Alzheimer’s steadily advances, stealing more of your Grandfather’s mind day after day. I find his little notes to me still.
I often hear age used as an excuse, but I can't say I've heard that excuse from you. Do you think you have a different mentality about aging than others?
This is a difficult question to answer simply because I haven’t much considered whether my outlook on life collides with others of my age. The most appropriate answer may be that I was raised to be responsible for my actions, whatever the outcomes. Over time a belief in oneself emerges. With each action comes a widening in self-knowledge leading to a reinforcement of confidence.
Perhaps those that attained their years insulated from fears, real or imagined, seldom testing themselves, may be more hesitant to enjoy such activities as skydiving. Their inner voice, which has assumed a large influence to date, flashes a warning, “Outcome Unknown” which they feel compelled to heed. Consequently, they may remain on the side lines and can miss out on wonderful adventures.
It's my hope to share valuable, applicable knowledge through The Living Theory. Any other advice or words of wisdom you'd like to share?
What other counsel could I add? Only this:
Trust yourself. Open yourself to the unknowns. As they say, “Just do it.” You will be surprised by the doors that will open and through which you can pass, well on your way to other beckoning choices and adventures. That’s the key!