Monday, September 8, 2008

The Balloons

“Well, I can’t really say that I respect writers. My father is a writer. He’s devoted so much of his life to it without getting a lot back.
“He’s treated many parts of his life as if he were writing them. He says whatever comes into his mind and then he thinks that he can edit it out later if he has hurt anyone. I know he also believes that because he says things, they will be so. When we were kids we believed him. He would say, next year we really will be living in a townhouse on Park Avenue. Write down the date. You’ll see. In exactly one year I’ll have sold a book... and so on and the four of us kids really believed him and we’d get so excited and happy. Year after year, we would get our hopes up only to be disappointed.
“One summer when I was about ten years old, my older sister and two younger brothers and I were all at home with my father. My mother was out at work during the days. My father would struggle in the summer with what to do with us. Sometimes we would go for weeks staying up until one or two in the morning playing poker with my dad and sleeping in most of the day. Mostly we sat around the house bored. Once in awhile he’d plan a great excursion and we’d set out on a quest.
“I don’t even remember what the goal was that day but we ended up at the Lincoln Center Out of Doors Festival. They give free concerts and performances and we saw whatever it was we went there to see. It was nearing the time to leave and one of us noticed that underneath one of the overhangs of a building there were trapped some twenty or thirty balloons. They were tangled together and seemed to be in two bunches with a large number of strings hanging down. Some of the strings were very long but mostly they were matted and knotted together in lumps and the lowest one was still twenty-five feet off the ground.
“We watched in helpless awe as my father attempted to snare the tethers with his huge bunch of keys. I don’t know why my father had so many keys but at the time I didn’t question it. At first it was exciting but after twenty minutes we all started to grumble. My father had us standing sufficiently out of the way so as not to be hit with the keys. It also allowed us the liberty to complain out loud about my father’s pursuit. ‘I don’t even want the balloons anymore.’ someone would say. And then, ‘Yeah, we should go home.’ and finally someone would counter, ‘But wouldn’t it be cool if he got them.’ And then we’d go around again. Forty minutes passed. We were tired of watching him and yet we could not stop. He had gathered a substantial audience.
“Just when everyone was about to give up on him, he snagged the balloons. The weight of his keys pulled them down and he grabbed one of the strings. Everyone shrieked with delight. My father is not a small man. Like an overgrown kid, he came running towards us. Out into the open courtyard he ran with a huge bunch of balloons. I couldn’t believe the pride and joy I felt after the frustrating wait. But something happened as he neared the middle of the courtyard. The balloons began to shift. It became quickly apparent that the one string that my father held was attached to nothing. And still he ran towards us. In slow motion all of the balloons escaped and my father ran towards us not looking back but pulling a string. In moments our joy turned to horror as all the balloons floated beyond the reach of anyone. The weight of the string and our facial expressions must have clued my father in. He stopped running and turned to watch the balloons float away. We walked home in near silence. Every so often my youngest brother would say, ‘He had them and then they were gone.’


Allison Guerriero said...

This is a great story, Al. I'm so sorry about Ed. I wish you had an easier time of things right now.

mizmaritza said...

I love this story! Watching the balloons float away behind him is a pretty image to me. And spending so much time to get them, ultimately in vain, well to me writing is often like that.
Thanks for sharing this. I knew your dad toward the end of his life and was deeply saddened to hear news of his passing.