Did you ever have a week when something keeps popping up in your life over and over again? Well, this week that would be balloons and me. Balloons have been calling my name, silently imploring my mind to pay attention to what my heart has been noticing. It started at Red Robin. My daughter and I went there for lunch and there was a little boy, darting away from the grown up person whose hand he had been holding. They were starting to leave when I saw him eagerly dash over to a tangle of primary colors and hanging down strings that made up the bunch near the cash register. He plucked out a bright yellow balloon and clutched the string with small but determined fingers. “It’s windy out, you better hold it tight” warned Grandma. Side note. Yes, I am thinking it was Grandma. You know how you make up quick stories about people you see out and about? Me too, I do that all the time. I had instantly decided this was Grandma with Grandson, out for a special lunch because it was a sparkling, sunshiny winter’s day and who knows how many of those we are going to get during February bleakness. Anyway, Grandson told Grandma that the balloon would be just fine, as he clutched the thin string. “We will see what happens,” said Grandma gently, smiling at Grandson. That was it. She did not tell him that it might blow away, she did not check to see if he was holding the string tightly enough, she just told him to see what happens. My child development brain was delighted. Grandson was going to be able to figure out on his own how much strength and strategizing it will take to keep possession of his bright yellow treasure on this sunny, but wind blowing day. Wise Grandma. Lucky Grandson. And yes, as they ventured into the parking lot the wind bellowed and beckoned and the balloon string lurched and pulled. Grandson quickly figured out how to hold on tightly enough to maneuver that bright, yellow balloon safely into Grandma’s car, and off they went! So that was my first balloon lesson of the week. Scientific principles about wind and resistance learned by small boy courtesy of Grandma letting him figure it out all by himself!
Driving home from Red Robin, a vivid memory made its way to the forefront of my mind. I thought about my father, my children’s grandfather. I adored my father. My father adored my two children who in turn adored him back. When he died my children were little, but not too little to be very, very sad. About a week later we were home and my children each had a balloon, I don’t remember why or how. But I do remember my son Z requesting to go outside in the backyard. He wanted to send his balloon “Up to Grandpa.” And so we did. Z and my daughter M released their balloons into the puffy cloud sky. We had not talked very much yet about where people go when they die. I was still too raw. But somehow, in the minds of my children, Grandpa was up in the clouds and he was to be the recipient of these two balloons, released with much love, some tears, and a firm belief that the journey of said balloons would culminate in making their way directly to Grandpa. And, somehow, the healing process began . . .
A few days after our Red Robin lunch, my daughter had a brief stay in the hospital. It was almost evening and she wanted an Italian Ice. While walking to the nurse’s station that had a cute little mini-fridge filled with juice and Italian Ices, and surprisingly, turkey sandwiches, I glanced inside one of the patient rooms. It is hard not to do that, human nature I guess. There was an older woman alone in the room, lying in bed. She appeared to be quite ill, and my mind started to make a story again. She is sick, no one is with her, there is no family close by, this is very sad. But then I saw them. Two heart shaped balloons, tied to the foot of her bed, that said “I love you.” Quick story revision. She was not a lonely woman, facing her illness in solitude and isolation. She was well loved. As I, in a relieved state, pondered this new development two adults and a child came down the hall and turned into her room. I heard the laughter. I imagined the hugs. The balloons had told the story much better than I. And the child giggled. I peeked again. And the balloons danced. I realized how important it is to be open to the extraordinary within the ordinary. The balloons have much to share. And I have much to learn . .