You Say It's Your Birthday

Friday, July 29, 2005

Four years ago today, I sat in a parking lot, sobbing in my own car. The breakdown was caused by what had seemed like a major tragedy. I called my boyfriend -- an arrogant attorney -- to come comfort me.

The problem? My face had somehow contorted into the kind of ugliness you would expect from the guy steering your boat in Hades. My hair was a bird's nest. My shirt was both wrinkled and tight. And they all combined to form the world's worst driver's license picture ever.

"Four years! Four years I have to live with this picture!" I screamed to my boyfriend. "Four years of bars and clubs and applying for things and getting pulled over -- all with this picture!"

"But that's pretty much how you look in real life," he said bluntly.

Cut to four years later.

Tonight, as the sun sets on my birthday, I'll be with many of the people I love best, including the kind of guy who strokes my forehead and calls me "Princess Maggie." I'll have a brand-new, smiley driver's license in my pocket. I'll have cupcakes and sunshine and skydiving to look forward to all weekend.

And in my very near future, I'm also looking forward to a new job, a cross-country move, a new apartment and new friends in my life.

So this evening, every time I lift my glass of pink champagne, I'll be toasting to fresh starts of every kind.

Happy Maggie Gras!

Things Unsaid

Tuesday, July 26, 2005
There are a lot of things I still want to say about the accident.

I want to say that Sean will be missed beyond understanding. He was a constant at the dropzone and we shared countless beers and conversations together. He jumped a big, old, lumbering parachute, and everyone gave him good-natured hell about it. He had a grin that spanned miles.

I want to say that finding out my boyfriend was involved in the accident was the worst fear I've ever known. The image of him nearly naked and shaking in the emergency room still haunts me every night in my dreams. I want to get sick when I think of the pain he continues to feel in his body and in his heart.

I want to say that the whole incident still doesn't make sense. I can't wrap my head around it. I can't believe it happened here, happened this way, happened to us. Sometimes I scrunch my eyes shut and try to rewind time.

I want to say that I'm tired of talking about the accident. I hate rehashing it and answering questions and reliving that feeling of vomit in my stomach. Then another part of me wants to talk of nothing else, because it changed my life so significantly, I can't rid my mind of it. I'm hurt and angry when other people tire of hearing about it. I want to shout it out to the world and then retreat.

I want to say how far things go beyond the news stories. This wasn't just a mid-air collision. It was two men who had been friends for a long time. Their lives intersected. And now they will be forever intertwined.

I want to say that Jason spent the last few moments of Sean's life with him. And Sean was happy.

Good Things

  • The wheelchair fits into the Honda Civic. Oh, it takes some grunting and cursing ... but it gets in there.
  • The dropzone hosted a welcome-back cookout for Jason Saturday night, and we spent the evening with more friends than we ever realized we had.
  • Hugs are almost better when one person is in a wheelchair. It gives better leverage for squeezing, somehow.
  • I treated myself to a new pair of flip-flops. Not only were they on super-clearance, but they make me happy every time I look at the ground.
  • I don't look at the ground so much anymore. Everything is really starting to look up.
  • My birthday is Friday. And it's my magical one, too, because I turn 29 on the 29th.
  • My friends are going to share in my special day, a celebration I like to call "Maggie Gras." We're going to have cake and champagne until we pop.
  • The most wonderful things have emerged out of the very dark place I experienced recently. Now I realize I don't need any other gifts. Next year, however ...

Humble Pie

Monday, July 25, 2005

I love tactile things -- the creamy, the gritty, and everything in between.

That's why out of all of skydiving's many traditions, I love pieing the most. It appeals to every base instinct in me. It's fun and messy and gross and messy and nasty and ... um, messy. And to make it even better: There's food involved.

Pieing is taking someone who has made a great skydiving accomplishment -- and slathering them with the nastiest concoction of crap possible.

This weekend we had J.R., who recently made his 100th jump.

My boyfriend, Jason, was given the first pie to throw. He wheeled up in his wheelchair so far up in J.R.'s grill, the two boys almost needed Altoids. Jason hoisted the cream pie up in the air, waited for the crowd's screams and yells to die down a bit, then smothered J.R.'s face in marshmallow goo.

Next came the dog food. Then the molasses. I think someone doused him with a bag of flour. There was a shower of oats. And then it was just a food beatdown -- that poor guy was pelted with everything from sour milk to sauerkraut.

Jim finished it off by pouring a bottle of beer over J.R.'s head, which turned everything into thick, first-grade paste.

When we finally untied J.R. from the wood where he had been crucified, there were pie plates piled all over the ground. The stench was almost visbile. And there were lumps of goo, piles of unknown substances, mountains of mysterious new strains of botulism.

It was messy and nasty and gross ... and fabulous.

Ooh Child, Things Are Gonna Get Easier

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Just when I thought we would never get out from under this umbrella of grief and hurt, Jason came home from the hospital.

We moved to a new place, far from the city.

Jason's wheelchair didn't fit into the bathroom, because the sink was in the way.

When we walked through the neighborhood, everybody stared.

When we moved the cat there, he hid under the comforter for hours at a time.

And then ...

I got some audiobooks, and the commute didn't seem so long.

The sink was taken off the wall, and we started washing our hands in the tub.

We explored the area anyway and didn't care what the nosy neighbors thought.

The cat poked his head out from the sheets and fell asleep.

Touchy-Feely Feelings

Monday, July 18, 2005

"Let us rise up and be thankful,
for if we didn't learn a lot today,
at least we learned a little,
and if we didn't learn a little,
at least we didn't get sick,
and if we got sick,
at least we didn't die.
So, let us all be thankful."

I feel like I'm finally emerging from the darkness of the past few weeks.

I haven't fully explained everything on here, and I don't really want to go over the details yet again.

The short version: Every nightmare I've ever had since I started skydiving all happened during the same accident. A friend died. My boyfriend, Jason, was seriously injured. The whole world changed in just a couple seconds -- just long enough for a mid-air collision.

The emotions have often been almost too overwhelming to feel. I'm so very happy that a first-time jump student came out of the accident unscathed. I'm so happy my boyfriend is alive. I'm glad my friend was able to leave this world doing what he loved best. I'm happy I have so many friends to see me through this difficult time.

But I'm also sorrowful and grieving and furious and fearful and all sorts of other things, all at the same time.

Overall, there's this depression that comes and goes -- but mostly comes. Remember that part in Reality Bites where Wynona Ryder crashes on the couch for about two weeks and racks up a ginormous phone bill while talking to the Psychic Hotline? I want that to be me. I want so much to writhe around in my own self-pity -- just listen to the Smiths and cry for a long time about everything and nothing and then stare up at the ceiling for a good day or two.

Slowly, I think my head is getting back together. At least I'm not getting quite so mad at happy people anymore. For a while there if I saw anybody laughing, I had to stop myself from punching them in the throat.

I just have to keep reminding myself how fortunate I am for what I didn't lose.

Jason is making an incredible recovery. Just two weeks ago, he was in very serious condition in the intensive care unit. Tonight he was sitting up in bed, eating a special T-bone dinner that a friend brought to the hospital.

Amazingly, he's going to be discharged tomorrow. And he'll be leaving the hospital in a wheelchair, which will be a whole new experience. I imagine it will bring a lot of burden and joy and adventure and frustration to our lives. At the very least, we'll finally get the good parking spots.

It's just so crazy how everything can change so fast and so dramatically. A few weeks ago, I would have thought it was the worst thing in the world to have a boyfriend in a wheelchair. Now, my heart spills open every time he rolls down the hallway in the hospital.

Gladness. Sadness. In my life, the two are now married.

And now I'm going to bed. I'm too tired to make sense.

Might As Well Jump

Sunday, July 10, 2005

I got back in the air today.

It was scary. Really scary. Like fear-to-the-bones kind of scary.

But I needed to do it in memory of my friend. I needed to do it for my boyfriend in the hospital. And most of all, I needed to do it for myself.

And then it was good. Really good. Like champagne-bubbles-in-my-soul kind of good.

Afterward, it was like I could finally breathe again. I was happy. I was fixed. I think I smiled for the first time all week.

My jumps also reinforced what I've been trying articulate all week. What good is living unless you feel alive?

Today I felt alive.

Loving Him

Originally uploaded by Maggiejumps.

Because my best guy is in the hospital right now, I made a jump for him today.

I wrote "I LOVE YOU JASON!!!" on a piece of cardboard, cut handles in the sides so I could hang onto it in freefall, then reinforced all of it with duct tape.

About five seconds into the skydive, all my good intentions fell apart. One of the handles ripped off the sign. Then the other. I had to fight to keep the thing from beating me in the face. And finally all that 120-mph wind whooshed up the corregated valleys in the sign and ripped the thing open from the inside out.

Wind is mean.

So my friend Mary was only able to capture a couple photos of me with the sign -- right as I was coming out the door, big cheesy grin and all.

At least my heart was in the right place.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Originally uploaded by Maggiejumps.

Jason had surgery today. Seems like everything went really, really well.

I also attended Sean's funeral service, burial and a little skydiver wake today. It was difficult, and I don't even think I've had a chance to start my grieving.

I'm exhausted. Seriously, profoundly, brutally exhausted. But I hate sleeping, because then I wake up and realize all over again that I'm in a hospital with my boyfriend, who is terribly injured, and that my friend is dead -- and those feelings hurt too much.

Among all this, I'm trying to figure out how something that makes me so happy can bring so much pain. It's like skydiving betrayed me.

But I've also been so moved by the enormous love and support of the skydiving community. It's another topic for another day, but it's the reason why I'm left feeling like the luckiest girl in the world at the same time I also feel like one of the saddest.

P.S. **UPDATE** Skydive Wayne County is opening an account at Fifth-Third Bank to help pay for Jason's medical bills, since he has no health insurance. By Monday, you should be able to make a donation at any Fifth-Third branch. It will be listed under Jason Yasuda's name. Anything at all would be very much appreciated.

Rest in Peace

Monday, July 04, 2005
Blue skies forever, Sean Crossman.

We'll miss you, brother.

To Market, To Market

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Originally uploaded by Maggiejumps.

I've got the morning news headline addiction. In hotels, I do that weird thing where I count how many doors there are to the fire escape, in case the hallway gets filled with smoke during a blaze. And I bring my coffee to work in a Thermos, the tall kind with a mug on top.

It's obvious. I've turned into my father.

This morning proved it. I woke up before 6 a.m., mostly to hit the farmer's market before everyone else walked away with the quality produce. Plus, we're getting into melon season, and I wanted a few good cantelope.

Let's pause here to reflect on just how crazy that is for me.

There used to be days that I wouldn't crawl home until 6 a.m. And cantelope, schmantelope. All I needed were some greasy fries and a handful of Advil.

Now I'm waking up before 6 a.m., and I'm all "Woo, fruit."

I've inherited my dad's produce insanity.

However, my dad never went skydiving after his treks to the farmer's market -- and that's exactly what I'm leaving to do right now.

Blue skies, friends. Have a great weekend.

Awwww ...

Friday, July 01, 2005

Originally uploaded by Maggiejumps.

You might notice that it looks like Kung Pao Kitten is wearing a skydiving helmet. So it makes perfect sense that he came into my life at the skydiver farmhouse in Indiana, a common drop-off site for all kinds of strays, from teeny kitties to bloody Pit Bulls.

Kung Pao crossed my path as I was stumbling up to the house after yet another hangar party. His head was enormous and his body was scrawny. Everyone else said he looked like the Outbreak monkey.

He stood in front of me and rubbed his bulbous head on my feet, then flipped upside down and curled around my legs.

I should mention how much I hated cats at this point in my life. Loathed them. Wished them dead. I thought they were stupid animals with no personality. They made my lungs all wheezy and my eyes red. I was all "Rah rah, dogs!"

But that night I looked at that cat and said to my boyfriend, "We're taking him home."

"Wha? But ... but ... you HATE cats."

"This cat? And me? We're in love," I said.

I'm so in love with Kung Pao, I'm convinced he's a reincarnated ex-boyfriend. Of course, that's mostly because he's also a total pervert. And I've dated a lot of those.

Kung Pao likes to sit on my lap when I pee. When I shower, he stands on the ledge of the bathtub and presses his paws against the cleap plastic curtain. And let's not even discuss all the times he's slept on my face.

Kitty Porn

Originally uploaded by Maggiejumps.

Because I got my new camera today ... and because I love my cat ... here we marry the two.

I'm not going to make the requisite pussy galore joke. But you guys feel free to chime in.