Father and son enjoy new adventure
"My Father did not tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it."
This anonymous quote was shared by Sonny Dill of Manila. Sonny keeps this quote on his cellphone because it says just how he feels about his dad, Ray Dill.
The Dills' Father Day story stretches through the entire year, not just one day.
It is not unusual to see father and son, Ray and Sonny, enjoying an afternoon riding their Harley Davidsons around town. The two share a passion for motorcycles and have taken trips together across country. They also share a love for Christian ministry and both serve on the Manila volunteer fire department.
But last year the Dills shared a new adventure to add to the list of "awesome" things they enjoy doing together -- all because Sonny wanted to give back to his Dad.
Sonny surprised Ray on Father's Day weekend 2012 with a skydiving adventure, creating a new-found passion. Through the years the two had talked about "someday" trying skydiving.
"I guess you could say it was one of those things on my bucket list," Ray said.
They had even ridden their bikes to Summerville, Tenn., and watched jumpers at the West Skydiving School.
That "someday" came when Sonny called his parents and asked them to meet him in Memphis so he could take them out to lunch. Ray and Reba didn't hesitate and the day was on. Little did Ray know he was about to have the adventure of a lifetime.
After lunch, Sonny casually mentioned driving out to Summerville to watch the jumpers.
"I had no idea we would actually be able to jump that day," Sonny said. "As a rule you have to sign up in advance and set a date two or three weeks ahead for the tandem jump. We arrived and went inside, watching about 30 jumpers practice.
"I started talking to the owner of the school about being out there with my dad and inquired about signing up. The owner asked if we would jump that day if he could make it happen. We both agreed -- we were ready. The owner, Mike Mullins, is the father of six, all jumpers, and I think he realized what it would mean to us."
Ray was ready. He went to the car and changed into his Chuck Taylor tennis shoes.
"My whole life I have always worn Chuck Taylor tennis shoes," he said. "I have ridden many miles on my Harley in my Chuck Taylor tennis shoes, and I usually have them with me even if I am not wearing them."
Ray and Sonny immediately started the process of going through the training videos and taking the steps to get prepared.
They thought Reba would be nervous about it, but, surprisingly, she said she was not nervous but actually excited for them.
They were paired up with professional instructors. In a tandem jump, a new skydiver is hooked to the front of an experienced diver for the jump. Ray said his instructor was from Australia and is quite a character.
"His name is Mark, which he pronounces 'Mock,'" he laughed. "We boarded the plane, reached 14,500 feet and we jumped one at a time. There were no seats, so we sat on the floor and went out one after another."
Ray said at 68 he was the oldest one to jump that day.
"I had always thought I would yell 'Geronimo' if I ever jumped out of a plane, and so I did," Ray chuckled.
Both men talked about the noise in the plane, noting it was really loud with the wind and props. They said the minute-long freefall seems like forever and that when the parachute opens, everything is quiet and peaceful.
"It seemed like my socks and underwear came up to my noise when the parachute opened," Ray said. "Then it was total quiet. It was such a feeling it is hard to describe."
A photographer with a camera mounted on top of his helmet jumped with the group and moved around taking shots, using his mouthpiece to snap the shots as he caught the jumpers going down at 200 miles per hour. This gave the jumpers a great keepsake since they can see the expressions on their faces.
Ray was captured as he yelled "Geronimo."
"The photographer was good," Ray said. "He got under us floating on his back looking up to capture the moment."
There also was a camcorder so they were able to take home a video of the experience.
Sonny said he enjoyed watching his dad as much as he enjoyed the jump.
"When I landed, Dad had already gotten to the ground. He came over and grabbed me and said 'I love Jesus,'" Sonny said.
This father/son adventure will be hard to top, but it is not over yet. Ray, who retired from the Mississippi County Assessor's Office in January, plans to continue training and jump alone.
"We have a lot of special memories we share, but Father's Day 2012 will always be among the top," Sonny said.