But she had made the phone call, and made the booking. The three children all insisted in coming along to watch. She could pull out, but they would be so disappointed. Perhaps if she just went the once, and did not like it, they would be satisfied. After all they could not complain if she tried, but could not continue. So here she was at Benalla for the glider flights her children had given her.
Everyone was very friendly and encouraging. She had seen another passenger take off and return, happy about the experience. But he had been a young man, eager to experience new things – probably looking for a bit of an adrenalin rush. It was different for her – she was a mature lady, a widow, with adult children. With maturity had come a greater sense of her mortality. Although legally adults, the children still needed her. Two were still living at home, one of them still at university. And she knew that things could come to an end fast – after all, she knew from experience how fast the end could come, after losing her husband in what they thought was the prime of life. However, her children were excited for her – wanting her to experience something new.
Now she had been briefed about what to expect, and was strapped in ready to take off and head into the skies. Why, oh why, did it have to be a glider – no engine and so small. And they had strapped her into a parachute as well! This did not seem to give her much confidence about the safety of this experience. The pilot assured her that he had not lost a passenger yet, and the parachute was as much to do with comfort – there was no cushion on the seat, just a fibre glass shell. But at the same time, he had explained about how to get out of the glider, and how to operate the parachute. Was it really safe? And there were things that she should not touch, in case she opened the canopy at the wrong time.
She could still pull out, but there were the children all watching. But no, the tug plane was hooked up, the canopy closed, and they were moving. It was too late!
Five hours later!
It was over – or was it? She had had the three flights. The slight jolt when the glider released from the tug gave her a moment’s unease with the first flight, but the peace and smoothness of the flight after that was very relaxing. Looking down she could see the beauty of the lake in the middle of the town. They headed towards the wetlands, with the water birds, and finally the Winton Raceway on the way back to the airfield.
With the subsequent flights, the jolt did not bother her. She started getting excited about the process. She even took the controls during the second and third flights. They had found thermals, and she experienced the gain in height possible from the power of the air alone. They had found themselves thermalling with an eagle at one stage – a magnificent animal flying so effortlessly. She was a natural – at one stage finding a thermal for herself, and managing to circle in the thermal for a few moments.
Her eyes were sparkling for the first time in the three years since she had lost her husband. The children were “high fiving” one another. They were so relieved and happy to see their mother really smiling and enjoying life. It had been too long since it had happened and they had all been concerned. They were congratulating themselves for coming up with an idea for her birthday that she could enjoy.
Then they stopped – stunned. They had only planned for her to have a new experience, and enjoy herself for a few hours. Surely it was not happening – she could not be serious. Maybe she was getting her own back after they had forced her to do this – they knew she had been apprehensive about flying in a glider. But no – it looked like she was definitely serious. She was actually doing it. She was really signing up for a full one-week course offered at Benalla.
“Mum, what are you doing?”
“I have found freedom, the freedom of the sky – something to enjoy in life for the first time in three years. After all, age is not a limit; the sky is the limit!”