Oregon Magazine

When to Jump Out of an Airplane
     by Larry Leonard

It was the ealy Nineties.  I had to have my second open heart surgery, and afterwards the pump didn't come back like it had the first time.  So, they decided to install a pacemaker to give it a little help.

I was laying on the operating table, starting to fuzz out.  The scene reminded me of the beloved movie, M*A*S*H.  The large light shining down.  The surgeons in their white masks and cloth skull caps.  They had explained what was going to happen.  They were going to cut a slit in the flesh of the front of my left shoulder and make a living human shirt pocket, there.  The pacemaker wires would be poked down to and into my heart, and the pacemaker, itself, would sit in that pocket, controlling things.

"Would you please not sew up the flesh of the pocket top?" I asked the head surgeon.

He blinked and asked me why in the world I would want to leave the top open.  "Because," I responded, "I need some place to keep my cigars when I take a shower."

Some of them snickered.  The surgeon told me to shut up or I would wake up a different gender.

Afterwards, out of the hospital, I often sat on my porch thinking about my life, and came to the conclusion that Somebody Up There Didn't Like Me.  Different folks have different reactions to such thoughts.  My reaction was to complain.

In those days, there was a jump school at the Sheridan, Oregon airport.  I do not know if it is still there.  Anyway, I arranged to do it, and when the day came, my sister, Darlene, drove me down from Portland.  At the facilities, they explained what this did and what that was, and in a short while, I was clambering into a small airplane.  The engine revved up, we rolled down the runway and up we went.  A while later, we were thousands of feet in the air.  The pilot told me to go, and out I went.    (Photo: Navy jumper using a wing.)

From the ground, my sister heard me yelling something.  After I had landed and we were driving back, she asked me what it was that I was yelling up there. 

"My dear Darlene," I said, "you know full well the medical problems I have suffered.  You also know that I am a noble man of civil temperament, polite expression and generous nature.  It came to me that I was being mis-treated by the gods, so I did some history research and discovered that they live in the clouds."

Naturally, she agreed with my opinion of myself.  I went on with the explanation.

"As soon as I cleared that airplane, right there in the clouds, I gave them all what I refer to as a "high five minus four" hand gesture and told them in a loud and clear voice that not one of them had a legal father."

My sister, who as a grandmother is too old to giggle, did so, anyway and said, "I should have known."

Which brings us to the point of this essay.  If you have lately been feeling that the gods have been unreasonable with you, what I have just described might improve your attitude, too.  There is nothing that bucks a fellow up more than letting his tormentors know in person what he thinks of them.

© 2009 Oregon Magazine