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jumping off roof

There’s something curious about the connection between the mind and the body. For some reason the connection in my case has, over the years, become tenuous. It seems my mind wants to and says I can do something, but my body wholeheartedly disagrees. And unfortunately, the disagreement doesn’t come into play until after I’ve done whatever it is my mind suggested. Which often leads to pain.

I searched for a definition for my malady, and one term I came up with is the term cognitive dissonance. Here is the definition: the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. It isn’t an exact match, but it does speak to “behavioral decisions” being amiss. Another term, which fits even better, is dissociation, which includes this line in its definition: The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality. Yes, and there it is, a detachment from reality. Take for example the time I jumped off the roof of my house.

The boys and I were doing our chores one Saturday morning and our particular task was to clean the gutters and flower beds of all fallen leaves. They both hated crawling around in the rocks on their hands and knees, picking up leaves that within seconds of being removed would soon be replaced by another. Futility is how they described it. Anyway, my specific task was cleaning the gutters, which I didn’t mind at all, having a strange affinity for walking around on the tops of houses. I should have been a roofer.

While moving about on the roof, my mind began to wander back to the days of my youth. I remembered a time when, pretending to be Superman and thinking I could fly, I climbed up on the roof of our house and jumped off. I was seven and wasn’t that fun? I didn’t get to repeat the maneuver once Mom found out. She thought the act of jumping off the roof of our house was somehow unsafe. I didn’t agree with her, but fearing further repercussions when Dad came home, I acquiesced. But this time Mom wasn’t around and Julie was in the house and so at least for a brief moment I was the boss and could do whatever I wanted.

Grabbing a handful of soaking wet leaves and twigs, I looked down at the boys, who were in their early teens at the time, and said, “Boys, did you know I jumped off the roof of our house when I was a kid?” Their reaction wasn’t what I anticipated. Neither one said a word, but they did glance my direction and make a face as if to say, “That’s really cool Dad.”

I said, “No, I really did jump off the roof of our house out in California.” And that’s when the dissociation reared its ugly head and the detachment from reality kicked in. My next comment was, “You want to see me do it?”

Ron, being the cautious one said, “Are you sure that’s a good idea Dad?” Christopher however was up for the challenge and said, “Go ahead Dad. Show us.” He’s the one who eventually became a Green Beret, so jumping off roofs of houses was right up his alley. I looked down at the ground and tried to determine exactly how high up I was. I glanced at the basketball goal in the driveway and noticed the rim was about the same distance from the ground as the gutters of the house. Ten feet. That’s doable.

When I finally got the nerve to go I said, “Watch this boys,” and jumped, but no sooner had I left the roof than I began thinking about the impact. I’m sharp that way. Gravity hadn’t changed in the thirty-one years since I last attempted this feat, but my bones, muscles and ligaments had. Upon impact, I first felt a pain in my right knee as it was hyperextending and the same leg seemed to be driven high up into my hip socket. I fell to the ground and moaned for a moment or two and then regained my feet. As I limped back to the ladder I said, “See how easy that is. You guys want to try it?” The boys were laughing on the inside as they continued picking up leaves.

Before either could say a word, out the front door came Julie. When she asked what was going on, no one said a word about the acrobatic stunt I had just pulled. She surveyed the scene and based on the amount of leaves still remaining on the ground; she could tell that the boys had been distracted. After cracking the whip on them, she asked me, “How are the gutters coming? And why are you limping like that?”

Not one who lies well, although it isn’t because I haven’t had endless practice, I told the truth and said, “I jumped off the house.” The look on Julie’s face was typical. With a rolling of the eyes and a tone of anger in her voice she said, “You’re supposed to be the adult out here.”

Come to think of it, she’s right. But that’s where the dissociation and “detachment from reality” come into play. For just a moment, the seconds before I jumped to be exact, my mind said I was a seven-year old. Unfortunately, my body confirmed my true age at thirty-eight. It only took a few days for me to heal and I don’t think there is any permanent damage.