Bucket List

Zip Line Disaster

Got a bucket list? I do: go parasailing, do a good zip line, jump out of an airplane, travel more and a few other   ridiculous thing. I’ve been parasailing.  That was a walk in the park.  I’m not afraid of heights, the view was beautiful, and the landing back on the boat was as easy as walking since I had a handsome young man to catch me and let me down easy.

I’ve wanted to go zip lining for ages. Now understand, my mind says I can still do anything, but my body doesn’t always agree. I should have remembered that. I asked about weight and age restrictions for the Guntersville State Park zip line.. The young guy in charge replied, “You have to be at least 8 years old and weigh 50 pounds or more.” He didn’t understand.

“I mean an upper limit.”

“Aw, come on; you can do it.”  Young people have no clue what happens to your body with age.  Now, I’m not afraid of heights, but my arthritic knees don’t like steps.  I really didn’t think that would be an issue. Wrong. My first misconception – I thought you just got harnessed up and zipped around for ninety minutes.  I didn’t read the “adventure” part of the ad.

As we got to the orientation station and got rigged up, one of the two “children” who were our guides looked at our feet. We all had on sandals except for Tyler.  They said we were supposed to wear athletic shoes, not sandals. They looked us over and said that Reagan and our guest looked athletic so they would be ok. They didn’t say that about me. The female child-guide said, I’ll swap and let you wear my athletic shoes when we get to the tight-rope. Since we had enjoyed friendly banter with them, I thought it was a joke.  Wrong again.

My first eye-opener was when we got to the starting point. We had to climb up steps that wound around a tree forever up to a rickety platform that swayed with the wind. No joke.  A wise woman would have recognized the handwriting on the wall and then called a halt to the mission, but we had always taught our children to never be quitters. What was a mom to do? My son Shannon and his wife Donna were on the ground, holding our stuff, and making pictures.

“Hold this slide with your left hand and the ‘Oh, C—‘cable with the right.” (I judged that child right there for saying a bad word; I clearly understood later.)  “When we motion to brake. Do ????.”  I really didn’t listen much after that. I was still trying to figure out my right from my left.  I didn’t bother to tell anyone that I’m directionally impaired. I really have to give great thought to which is my right or left hand.

When instructed to do so, Tyler and his friend jumped off, zipping to the first stop – another shaky platform. Reagan started to go next, but I told him I might need him behind me to help me, not realizing it was every man for himself. So I was to go next.    While I was standing on the platform, the girl-child went over the right/left thing again and said something about braking. The guy had already asked Shannon if any of us would hit the tree. He said, “Yep, my mom.” He knows me too well.

There I stood primed and ready to go.  The little girl said, “Are you ready?”

“Sure,” I lied.  I waited. Nothing lifted me off.  Finally, she said I had to jump. I did. All was exhilarating for a short distance.  As I soared above treetops, I mentally sang “I’ll Fly Away.”

I faintly remember hearing the guides and my family yelling, “Brake, Gram.  Brake, Mom,” I couldn’t remember which hand I was to brake with. “Nearer My God to Thee” breezed through my mind. Therein was the first disaster. My already hurting knee slammed into the tree, not only causing excruciating pain in it, but that also jammed my leg into my hip – more pain.

I thought I did much better on the next leg of the journey. Not so, according to family. The third stop involved my ankle hitting the tree.

Ok, got that braking thing going now, I thought. Not so; I almost tore my arm out of its socket because my right hand locked down instead of letting it slide, causing me to stop short of the platform with the girl-child yelling, “Grab the cable. No, behind the slide so you don’t go any farther back.” Then she yelled instructions about my turning backward and walking myself up the incline to the platform with my hands. After two or three hand over hand maneuvers, my strength was depleted. A few lines of “Lord, I’m Coming Home” became my mantra then, the girl-child said for me not to worry; she was coming after me. Yeah, 90 pound. girl-child was going to tow my “over-ninety -body” up the incline. She did and my grandsons hefted me to the platform.  Surely the worst was over.

Not so.  Here came the adventure part. I had to walk a swinging bridge over the treetops; planks were spaced about 2 feet apart. (Also I’m measurement impaired.)  After great struggling, I managed to pull my weary body up the incline to the platform. “It is Finished” echoed through my head. “The hard part is over, right?”

“I’m afraid not, Ma’am. The next bridge is much harder and then we have the tightrope walk to go,” the wide-eyed boy- child guide looked at me with pity. I think he realized they had taken on more than they could handle too.

I may have been too stupid to have NOT started this adventure, but I was wise enough to call calf rope. I was used up. The guide had said we could abort the mission at any time; he could get me down. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?  Not true. I had to be switched from one cable to the escape one. “You need to jump high so I can change the slide over to the other cable.” On my best days I no longer jump, much less when fatigue had overtaken me. I looked at him with disdain.

He didn’t get the message. “Okay, see that thing sticking out of the tree.  Just put your foot up there, step up and pull yourself up on the cable.”  Children just don’t understand. That ”thing” was about 3 ½ feet above the rickety platform.

“Son, I can’t bend my knee enough to put my foot that high, much less stand up on it,” I said in not so gentle tone.

‘Okay, (He was getting desperate by then.) Step on my knee, then up to the metal piece and pull up on the cable and hold there a minute.  The Lord lifted me whether I sang, “Love Lifted Me” or not. I know I didn’t have the strength at that point to do it by myself.

Almost over, right?  Well, it would have been if things had gone the way they should have, but a pulley malfunctioned, and I was left hanging by my harness like a lifeless blob while boy-child disassembled and reassembled it. My son thought I was near heart attack mode and tried to throw a bottle of soda to me.  My grandson finally nabbed it and tossed it to me. When my feet finally touched the sweet earth, I know I must have sung a few lines of “Holy Ground.” I can’t wait to jump from a plane now.

I want you to understand, I don’t use bad language nor allow my children or grandchildren to do so, but somewhere on the expedition, I heard someone shout, “Holy S—.” I hoped it didn’t come out of one of my grandchildren’s mouths. It didn’t.  After watching the hilarious video (at least it was to everyone but me), I discovered those words had erupted from my mouth. I repent.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23.

“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Matthew 7:1-2.

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