Friday, October 26, 2007

Entangled parade balloons

Called Dad at 5:35 this evening, but he was anxious to cut the visit short. He needed to switch from Lou Dobbs on CNN to a local station for the weather report. I had interrupted one of his tethers.

If we are all inflated balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (and I have acquired the figure over the years), then we all need tethers--those lines that keep us from floating away into the stratosphere or crashing down in a New Jersey landfill. We all need handlers to hold the tethers firm however strong the wind. Talking to Dad, the first parade balloon that comes to mind is Underdog. The Underdog balloon first appeared in the Macy's parade in 1965.

Dad is an Underdog. He has surpassed the odds. It has been nearly three years since my mother passed away. "Conjugal bereavement" is a huge stressor related to mortality risk for men. Depression related to grief impacts the immune system. The stress of caring for my mother during her six month illness also took a toll on Dad, emotionally and physically.

Dad broke the same hip twice in a six month period, but is able to live in his home and get around well with a walker. He has aides that come to the house everyday. The homemaker aide who comes in three mornings a week is one of the strongest tethers for his Underdog balloon. This incredibly patient and competent young woman is a friendly anchor for Dad. She also makes it possible for me to keep my Bullwinkle balloon tethered several states away. If my dad is losing helium or whipping around street lights and spectators, I can't do my job or keep my own balloon afloat with its marching band and celebrity commentator.

Weather, news, and sports are vital anchors for Dad. He needs his golf and baseball on t.v. The Weather Channel with "locals on the eights", and the Lincoln station weather reports keep him looking forward, no matter how dorky or annoying the forecaster. I'm not sure how to categorize the news. Mostly, the news keeps Dad angry and/or empathetic. He shouts at the war reports. "Bush lied. They died!" Amen. We should all be shouting. Dad gets tearful about car crashes, calamities, catastrophes, and climate change. We should all be less jaded.

Dad isn't as interested in the activities of his descendants as he once was. He doesn't hear very well and his personal hurdles take up most of his energy. Family is still a tether.

Dad's blessed to live in a tree-shaded neighborhood made up of young families, long-time elderly homeowners, and everybody in between. To have been part of that community for nearly fifty years is a powerful pull, although Dad misses those years not so far back when he and Mom were the official neighborhood grandparents.

Food fills us up, but it also holds us to this daily life, and fuels our spirit. Meals, foods, scents, and tastes, past and planned, are the warp and weft that connect us to life's parade route. The bands are playing. I see the tassels on the drum majorette's white boots. We march forward toward the piece of peach pie, the Healthy Choice microwave dinner, the Stouffer's stuffed green pepper, or the expertly-toasted English muffin.

My evening phone calls and letters are another Earth-to-Howie:Howie-to-Earth (come in, Howie) connection. Sometimes, I need to check the strength of my own balloon tethers, and make sure my handlers know their ropes. My Bullwinkle balloon occasionally gets boffled-about by the winds whipping around street corners between skyscrapers. My over-active mama mode nags the balloon handlers to wear their mittens and gloves.

What keeps me floating along the parade route:

Family--My wonderful sons and Dad
Writing--Blogging and letters
Teaching--Wise coworkers and entertaining kids
Curiosity, wonder, learning--Opera, spiders, art, genealogy, ......

Curious George had an adventure with parade balloons. If you are a curious little monkey, and you have the Man with the Yellow Hat for a friend, life is full of fascinating knots to untangle.

1 comment:

Sharon Lippincott said...

I love this balloon analogy. Ages ago I realized that the air in my balloon tends to get a bit overheated at times, and thank heavens for my hubby and good friends who act as ballast, not to crash me to the ground, but to keep me on an even keel, and from soaring too high.

I'd never thought about tethers. That's worth some exploration.