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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Balloon watching

At the young age of six, I was whisked away, along with my eight-year-old sister to start a new life in Albuquerque with my dad. Dad didn't want the divorce and he was gonna be damned if my mom was going to take away his daughters.

He was taking the kids.

He was gonna be in control so that he could see that they were not badly affected by the stigma of divorce.

He would figure out a way.

He was flying off with them; it would be just the three of them for now, somewhere better, if he could get lucky, if the wind would only blow the right way this time.

I'm not really sure why the hell he picked Albuquerque. Maybe Phoenix held too many reminders for my dad about his failed marriage. Maybe it had never brought him anything good and he wanted to try his hand somewhere else, somewhere far, but not too far from his other young daughter, just three years of age who my mother had managed to get custody of. Maybe he wanted to be far enough away from the frowns of his disapproving family and the muffled snickers of my parents' "friends". Maybe the I-told-ya-so looks were too unbearable.

My dad was around 29 years old at the time; tall, a full head of beautiful light brown curly hair, clear blue eyes, straight teeth that had escaped the eager, greedy hands of his family's orthodontist when he was a teen. My dad grew up in all-American, upper middle class family of nine children in Arizona during the 60's. He escaped Vietnam by just a couple of years, unlike his brother who my father, at age sixteen, saw buried. His father was a federal judge, his mother had a master's degree in Psychology but was a housewife and a devout Mormon. He came from a family with a history of power and success; his maternal grandmother had served in the Arizona State legislature in the 1940s (no small feat for a woman at the time), his paternal grandfather was a Professor of tax law. All of his siblings had gone on to law school, or had become accountants or had started to work their way up the military ranks.

Compared to them, my father had a head full of hot air.

My father had not a dime to his name, just some nice oak bedroom furniture and a clothes dryer, but nowhere to put it in our tiny apartment so it stood in the living room absent a washing machine (my mom had gotten the washer).

He had never gone to college like the rest of his family or travelled much out of the state. He had not done much of anything except disappoint his parents and my mother, who he had married at the ripe age of 19. He grew up in the Mormon tradition, but it was likely a life-style choice of his parents rather than being deeply ontological. They were at the same time cultured and well-educated, steeped in community and family, and very well-respected.

They were grounded, not like my father who was floating off into space, with all the others who would never make anything of themselves.

They probably didn't like that my dad smoked pot.

They probably didn't like that he had asked them for money to start a sales call center out of his apartment; to start-up a vending and snacks company (based on the "honor system"); to get his real estate license; to pay the IRS all the money he owed them; to buy himself a Ford escort to replace the giant brown Chrysler he had also been gifted from his grandmother.

They probably didn't like that he had opened his uncluttered mind to becoming an evangelical to soothe a failed marriage, a career that had gone nowhere and to find meaning in life. It must have been so easy to turn to that and it must have itched at and irritated their Mormon roots so.

Scoffed at by his family and ex-wife, he turned to his two young daughters to fulfil him. He learned to braid their hair for school. He did their laundry, properly sorted and all. He made sure there was a nutritious breakfast each day, specializing in chocolate chip pancakes on the weekends. He learned to make quiche and chicken enchiladas. He made sure they took their Flintstones vitamins. He had them see a counselor with experience on dealing with children of divorced parents. He bought an ATARI, somehow, who knows how he got the money, but they played Pac-Man for hours together.

He sometimes accidentally burdened them with things he probably shouldn't have shared with them, such as how lonely he was or how worried he was about whether the food would last all week until his next paycheck. He didn't have anyone else to talk to. It couldn't have been easy to find a female ear or heart with all the baggage and debt he carried.

And then I'm sure he would plant his feet firmly again and vow to never burden them like that again, to keep his head out of the clouds, to make them think everything was okay. Everything would be okay.

He had tears in his eyes a lot.



Utterly disappointed with life.

And those two girls picked up on every bit of his discontent and yearning.

Each day at the breakfast table with bowls full of oatmeal and Flintstones vitamins ready to chew and orange juice poured, four big eyes would stare up at him and give him some kind of motivation to put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes those little people asked him if he was sad. And he would blink his tears away and smile and say, "No."

One time he took them to see the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon festival.

Maybe he stared up at that colorful New Mexican sky while the girls took turns sitting on his shoulders and maybe he wished he could glide away with them in one of those air-filled, stripe-spangled jewels, effortlessly through the crisp sky to somewhere else, somewhere easier.

I know one little girl wished it.

Three is a Crowd by JadeXJustice from Flickr
Untitled by TailspinT from Flickr
Mass Ascension by a4gpa from Flickr
Checkered Sky by JadeXJustice from Flickr
Above the Crowd by a4gpa from Flickr

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thewishfulwriter May 14, 2009 at 11:50 AM  

Achingly beautiful. I get it. And your dad. I get him too. Incredibly well written - thank you for sharing.

People in the Sun May 14, 2009 at 12:30 PM  

I always stay away from people who know what their next move should be, because for people like that actions and ideas always seem to be borrowed from others. To move around aimlessly often seems like the only natural way to live. But maybe I'm just making excuses for myself.

And how fun is it to find my friend The Wishful Writer here?

Mister Crowley May 14, 2009 at 1:06 PM  

Blues, this is your best. I have no other words to describe this post. The one post I've laways wanted to write, but never built up the courage to.

Blues May 14, 2009 at 2:34 PM  

@Thewishfulwriter - hi! Thanks for the kind words.

@Peopleinthesun - I just don't understand knowing what the next move is. It's not in my nature. I found your friend through your site. Lovely.

@Mistercrowley - Jesus am I ever blushing. I had thought about not posting it because I couldn't see it objectively enough to know if it would interest anyone but me. I'm glad you liked it.

Denise May 15, 2009 at 4:59 AM  

That was so sad, and so beautiful; wanting to protect or make things better for your mum or dad as a young child (and knowing you just can't do it) is just a heavy, heavy, painful weight.

Xbox4NappyRash May 15, 2009 at 9:23 AM  

You know, you've gone somewhere here that I could never dare. I wouldn't even know where to begin.

A wonderfully painted picture.

Anonymous May 15, 2009 at 11:18 AM  

Blues--that was wonderful. Despite the dryer in the living room and worries about money, your father sounds like a good guy--how sweet is it that he had vitamins for you. Did things ever get easier for him?

Blues May 15, 2009 at 4:25 PM  

Hey guys, thanks so much for the words of encouragement. It means a lot that you guys followed me over here and still care what I throw out there. I'm trying to go a little more innerspace and record memories a bit and use it as an exercise. Maybe my audience is more into my expat themed writing, but I'm exploring and glad you guys are into it.

I keep reading this and wondering what my dad would think if he ever read it. I don't really know the answer to that at all.

Hereinfranklin, I'll write part II soon maybe, but yeah, these were the tough times I guess, easier days came later.

Captain Steve May 15, 2009 at 8:32 PM  

Dude. Your daddy sounds like a good guy.

Blues May 16, 2009 at 4:56 AM  

@Captain Steve - I'm glad that is the message that came through. That is what was intended.

Gwen May 16, 2009 at 11:16 AM  

Blue - I know how it feels to be burdened with the problems of adults. I wrote a post about this the other day too, called A Twig for Tears. I worry about doing the same thing to my girl. Thanks for sharing this aching memory from your childhood. I'm glad you went anonymous so that you could share these types of stories.

Ellie May 16, 2009 at 12:08 PM  

I think I was also about 6 when I saw the Balloon Show in NM. Absolutely loved it. Taos, Santa Fe NM ... those are my family roots, but still have the odd relative in Albq. xxx, e

A Free Man May 16, 2009 at 4:52 PM  

Wow, nicely written, The thing is, with only one or two different decisions, I'm living a life nearly identical to the one you described for your dad. So, in a lot of ways, I was pulling for him in this story.

Gypsy May 16, 2009 at 6:46 PM  

So touching, Blues. Really. Have I mentioned this before? Have you read The Glass Castle? Your writing reminds me a bit of that book. Gorgeous and honest.

Dirty Pirate Hooker May 17, 2009 at 12:55 PM  

What an amazing father you have. You're very lucky.

This was a FANTASTIC post.

Eileen May 24, 2009 at 10:01 PM  

this was beautiful. thanks for sharing it with strangers far and wide.

LadyHAHA April 19, 2011 at 6:09 AM  

I love this. Seriously. Wonderfully written Blue, as usual.

Praveena April 19, 2011 at 10:40 AM  

this made me cry! brought back a lot of similiar childhood memories..

beautifully written :)

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