The Wildest Ride of My Life

I spent the weekend with a bunch of Humor Writer at the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop. I had an absolute blast. I sat in on a session or two. One was lead by Jerry Zezima (Columnist and author of the book Leave it to Boomer).

I have a new appreciation for authors. I do my little stories with sounds and tone of voice. They have words, and only words.

Jerry gave us an exercise to think about “the Wildest Ride I Ever Had.”

My idea came quickly. I was about and we were at Geauga Lake Amusement park (now closed). There was a big wooden coaster that had been around since the days of Howdy Doody, and you were scared to ride it just by looking at it. Not because it was tall and fast, but because you were pretty sure it was going to collapse. Big Dipper was 65 feet high, 2,680 feet long, and had a top speed of 32 mph.  When built in 1927 it was one of the largest roller coasters in America.

With this in mind, my Dad and I were the only ones to get on the ride. I hadn't ridden on many roller coasters, and it was cool to actually have my Dad (a long distance truck driver) along for some family fun. I put on my seatbelt (with enough room for three other people in it), and grabbed on to the bar that would lock down over my legs.

The genius college kids who ran the ride gave some thumbs up and told us to enjoy the ride. As we were going up the hill, I noticed the bar wasn't locked. I moved it, thinking it would lock in place. It didn't. About the time I went to tell my father that it wasn't locked, the coaster shot over the hill. All I remember is my butt trying to pass my head, my feet coming off the floor, and my hands clinging on to the bar that was now vertical instead of horizontal. I screamed. I had planned on screaming as I have heard that if you don't you can get sick (which I do on these things). I looked at my Dad who grabbed the back of my shirt and yanked me down. He was laughing. Another hill and up I would go. He would laugh and pull me down, much like a two-year-old playing with a balloon. Up and down, up and down… laugh, laugh, laugh.

To this day, I have no idea why he stayed in the car unless he put his seat belt on tight.  It was one of the few things my father and I did together, and it was a complete nightmare.  This by far was the wildest ride of my life.  Thank God my father was there to give me the security that I wasn't going to die. I could count on him pulling me back into my seat. I was scared and comforted at the same time.

But Jerry had me thinking outside the box.

I walked into my father's house which to this day is still weird. It's where I grew up, and he has let the place go. It's also weird as I expect to see my mother every time I walk in the kitchen (who passed over 20 years ago).

I had to deliver bad news. I had done all I could. My soon to be ex-wife had refused to go back to marriage counseling, and we had come to the conclusion that the marriage was over. So not only were we going through a bankruptcy but we would add divorce to the mix. This was going to be a wild ride.

My father never really expressed like or dislike for my ex-wife. She did paint his house one summer while I was in school. She cleaned, etc.  Consequently, when I had to explain that my marriage was over, my soon to be ex-wife was a drunk, and a cheater, I didn't know how it would affect him. The number of serious discussions I've had with my father can be counted on one hand so this was going to be awkward.

When I delivered the news, he was sorry to hear it.  It turns out he knew what I was going through.  He knew the wild ride I was going to go through (even friendly divorces are ugly and expensive). He knew first hand.

“I don't know if you know this (I didn't), but I was married once before I met your Mom.” I was shocked. It turns out he had married some woman right before going into the air force. As the story goes, while the cat was away the mice did play. So he understands the pain of having someone cheat on you.

Then just like a hand that grabs me and pulls me back into safety he said. “Us Jackson men get very lucky. My brother found a great new wife, my father had found my mother, and he said, “I'm sure you'll find someone too.”

And I did.

I was scared and comforted at the same time.

Thanks Dad.

3 thoughts on “The Wildest Ride of My Life”

  1. Dave, you’re a wild and crazy rider. And writer. Thanks for the kind words. Your session on podcasting was fantastic — smart, interesting, informative, useful and funny. You’re a great guy. Keep up the good work. Cheers, Jerry

  2. Hey, that was a really moving story. The roller coaster part was ok, but the part about your divorce and talking to your father was really quite touching. Maybe cause I’ve been through the pain of a bad marriage and divorce. Thanks for the story, and SOP.

    James Messick

  3. James,
    Thanks so much for the comment. My goal is always to have some sort of emotion (laughing, crying, screaming, etc) with my stories.

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