Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Of Age and Anxiety

I can remember my very first ride on a roller coaster. During my early teen years, I eagerly anticipated two annual camps every year: CMI (Central Music Institute) and CBLI (Central Bible & Leadership Institute). Both of these camps, back then, used to take the middle day of the ten day encampment (a Wednesday) and transport all the campers to Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois. For CMI, we would practice all week for our participation in a parade around Great America. In exchange for the parade performance, we were allowed to spend the rest of the day riding rides.

My friends, Patti and Lisa, spent a good long time talking me into riding The Demon roller coaster. It looked horrendous, full of loops and twists. I was quaking in my shoes as we patiently waited in the long line. They were right! Once I finally was on the darn thing, I was hooked. It was amazing, the feeling of flying, the wind through my hair, the exhilaration of speed. I loved every minute of it and became a roller coaster fan that day. I believe I was thirteen or fourteen at the time.

I couldn't wait for my oldest son to achieve the height requirement for those daredevil rides. Boy, was he ever game! I remember attending DeKalb's Corn Fest with him one day before John got out of work. Bryce simply couldn't wait for Daddy. He just had to ride the Zipper all by himself (he looked so tiny contained in the metal cage as it spun around and around and upside down).

For a while, when Bryce and I would attend CBLI every year, they continued to host the Wednesday trips to Great America. We always had a blast and John would often join us for the day to ride the rides. Sadly, some stuffed shirt decided that it was inappropriate for a Bible encampment to make a yearly trek to an amusement park (perhaps they felt it was a frivolous use of money - serious Bible scholars and evangelists don't pursue personal entertainment?) and they took the annual trip away, replacing it with a family day. (The first year was the hardest because they actually expected everyone to give up this family fun day to spend it working together doing service projects on the camp grounds. Now, I'm not against service projects, but try being the one to explain to your pre-teen son that instead of going to an amusement park as expected, they would be shoveling gravel onto a walkway in the heat that day.)

Of course, by that time, it was becoming difficult for me to ride the rides anyway, because I had two little ones to keep an eye on. Someone had to stay below with the little boys while John and Bryce went off to ride the big thrill rides. Then, time shifted again and Trevor was old enough to ride the roller coasters. Bryce would bring along a friend and Daddy would ride with Trevor while I remained below with Sean. Alas, eventually Sean, too, was tall enough to ride the rides, and like John and Bryce and Trevor, he was fully game. This was when the problem developed.

Now, Bryce would be off with his friend and it would leave John and the two boys ... an uneven number. So, they began to urge me to ride with them. I assumed this would be no big deal. Boy, howdy, was I ever wrong!

Suddenly, these rides were no longer exhilarating. They were downright terrifying. Age pulls a number on you. Somehow, in your late forties and early fifties, what once thrilled now terrorizes. Besides the fear I experience, there's the added factor of being jostled around. I don't think the jerking movements bother the younger set, but I feel every jolt. At Holiday World, they are forever begging me to ride the biggest coaster, The Voyage, with them. But, I find I have to ride it with my eyes closed and even still, it shakes me up so that I end up with a headache for the rest of the day.

I say all of this because we are, probably at this very moment, visiting Cedar Point for our vacation. Everything would be hunky-dory, if we were just going as a family. The three boys could ride all those terrifying rides with their father and there would be an even number waiting together in the lines. I would simply remain below and read a book or people-watch. Alas, Bryce is bringing his girlfriend for the trip. He assured Dad that she will ride these big rides, so John went ahead and purchased ALL of us fast passes for the rides for our two day visit (Wed. & Thur.). Now, with the uneven number and the money spent on a fast pass for me, it will be virtually impossible for me to remain behind when they board these roller coasters. Then, my sister made it even worse by telling me that the very biggest coaster at Cedar Point often gets stuck way up there at the top of the ride. She urged me not to ride it.

So, if you could take a moment and whisper a tiny prayer for my safety, my sanity, and my stability (in the face of those jolts), I would be most appreciative! I promise to provide a full account of the terrors when ... and if ... I return. Turning fifty has its benefits (I even get a discount at Goodwill now), but it certainly sucked the thrill out of riding roller coasters.

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