It was 2002. My son's 18th birthday. If you've been reading along, you know my son has neurological issues and mental illness. Raising him has been a trial. In December of 2001, after a violent outburst, I told him to leave. He did. Never to live under my roof again. He was 17. It was like having both our hearts ripped out.
In May, of 2002, my son turned 18. We had a celebratory lunch, and gift opening back at the house later, but things were tense and awkward. I had also purchased him a bunch of helium Happy Birthday balloons. I withheld one; kept it hidden in my room for later.
Later that afternoon, I took that balloon, and a lawn chair up to the mausoleum in the cemetery which faces a giant golden cross. My intent was to have a private ceremony, releasing him back to God. I had to find a way to make peace with our separation, with his abrupt emancipation, and to realize that the life I had guarded for 18 years was now out of my hands. I had to somehow let go, knowing that his future was uncertain and rocky; dangerous, perilous and any number of things you can attribute to a mentally ill person who is now, on their own. Due to the choices he was making about not participating in treatment or medication, I had to make the tough-love choice that the bank was closed. He had to make it on his own from here.
So there I was, heading up to the cemetery, with this birthday balloon bobbing in the back seat, with no idea of what I would do once I got there. I'm not the most symbolic or abstract person you'll ever meet. I'm literal and linear. But I knew I wanted to mark this day as a special turning point. I survived sticking it out with him for 18 years. I wasn't arrested for killing him or him me. It was never easy, always traumatic, always like dodging bullets in a war zone, but we made it this far. I need to pat myself a little on the back for that, and to truly let go of his future, and my control over it. I was going to make an extreme effort to bend my brain and do something symbolic. I would release the balloon, while sitting before the cross, to return my son to God's keeping. That's the plan.
I got to the cemetery and parked. I opened the back door to get the folded lawn chair out and set it in position before the cross. I returned to the car for the balloon and it was gone. I mean VANISHED. It was not in a tree, it was nowhere to be seen in the sky, it was certainly no longer in the back seat. And.....I......was......royally.....PISSED.
My emotions were already fragile that day. Things had been so awkward with the birthday "celebration". I had figured out a symbolic ritual, I had bought the damn balloons, withholding one, I had it all worked out. I was creating outside my comfort zone, gosh darn it! What the HELL was God THINKING!?? I raged. I cried. Good thing it was just me and some dead people in the cemetery. "YOU COULDN'T LET ME HAVE JUST THIS O*N*E, God? What the hell!??" The rant went something like that.
Then out of seemingly nowhere, but clearly in my head, a thought interrupted my rage. I heard the voice of God, or angels, or guides, or somebody, because it certainly wasn't me...I was still yelling. The voice said:
If you've got 35 minutes to spare, please enjoy the award winning film from 1956, The Red Balloon.