SUN CITY CENTER – Here’s a thought. Why not jump out of a perfectly good plane on your 70th birthday? That’s exactly what local resident Madlyn Blom did on Good Friday.
“When I was in my early 20s, I went to a parachute jumping place (to learn what was involved),” she said. “But the next day someone fell to their death, and I changed my mind.”
For the next 45 years, Blom went about her rather normal life, marriage, children and work.
In 1974, she graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., with a degree in public health. She worked with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault at the Center for Women in Transition in Holland, Mich.
As part of a five-year plan to retire with her husband, Bob, Blom opened a rare book and collectibles shop at age 50. They moved to St. Augustine in 1994 and were happy until Hurricane Floyd tore through the city in 1999. They picked up and moved again to what they hoped would be a safer community in Punta Gorda and opened another bookstore on the second floor. Five years later along came Hurricane Charley and blew its roof off.
Blom then decided an online shop was her safest bet.
After moving to Sun City Center four years ago to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren, life continued in a normal sort of way. Involved in the yoga, computer and photography clubs, Blom now enjoys semi-retirement with her husband.
“I’m not a daredevil kind of person,” she said. But judging by her exploits you’d never know it.
During her college years, she traveled alone to England on a military transport and backpacked around Europe.
“The most crazy thing I ever did was kayak down the Myakka River to celebrate a friend’s 60th birthday,” Blom said. “It was November and the water was kind of low, but I wore a life vest just to be safe.”
The guide told her if she fell in the water it was only about four-feet deep. But she might want to watch out for alligators.
“Twenty minutes into the ride I saw several seven- to eight-foot alligators on both sides of the river,” Blom said. “I realized if I fell in I would be ‘gator’ food.”
Blom made it out alive but never went kayaking again.
“I just say she’s crazy,” her husband said. “She’s climbed a volcano in Hawaii and snorkeled with whales, but no, she’s not a daredevil,” he said with a smile.
Already she’s planning for her older years.
“I told my daughter when I turn 80 and it’s my turn for the nursing home, take me out for a parachute jump,” Blom said. “If I make it, I make it. If I don’t, I don’t. It has to be better than dying in a nursing home.”
But Blom didn’t wait until she was an octogenarian.
“My 70th birthday was coming up, and that’s a big deal,” she said. “I thought next year might be too late. I might not be able to do it.”
So off she and Bob went to Jump America in Plant City to see if it would be safe.
They set a jump for Good Friday and took a couple of friends for support. She left all her computer access codes with a friend, just in case.
“When we got there, I kept asking my instructor Tim for training and he kept saying ‘when it’s time’,” Blom said. “I asked him where my parachute was and he offered me his.”
Remembering she would be attached to him, she decided to let him keep it.
Blom has a theory on jumping out of a plane.
“Parachute jumping is kind of like falling in love,” she said. “You hope your partner is as committed as you are.”
As she was getting on the plane, Tim told her again that he would give me instructions when it was time.
“At 9,400 feet, it was time to jump,” Blom said. “He told me cross your hands over your chest and hold the straps. It took three times for me to get it.”
“I held my head back and did a belly flop into the air and I was flying,” she continued. “Flying in the clouds, it was beautiful. But I want a do-over. I forgot to cross my arms.”
For her next stunt, Blom is going ride her bike around Sun City Center.
“That’s much more dangerous than jumping out of a plane,” she said, half smiling.
Freelance writer Dosi Loverro can be reached at [email protected]