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Blowin’ in the Wind

by Dylan Weiss | Nov 30, 2023

So there we were: Dave, our neighbors, and me greeting a couple of strangers who had disrupted our sleep on a Sunday morning in 1992 after landing in a hot air balloon at the end of our street. We watched them climb out of the attached basket, gather up the silk fabric of the collapsed balloon, and then fold and stash it in the rear of a station wagon that had come to pick them up. We all waved goodbye and returned to our homes to go back to sleep, watch the news, or make breakfast. Chatting on the way home, I asked Dave how riders steer balloons. His uncomplicated answer was, “However, the wind blows.” Once back home, we made breakfast, coffee for me, OJ for DJ, and toasted bagels for us both. With plates in hand, we headed into the family room, switched on the TV, and sat down to listen to one of the morning news programs. And there it was, photographs of many hot air balloons participating in a new annual fundraiser for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. As we continued watching the news, we learned that money was being raised via individuals who paid to ride in corporate sponsored balloons. That year, the balloons were launched from Hartwood Acres, a 629-acre park in Western Allegheny County, and that day, the wind was blowing South. Make-A-Wish traces its inspiration to a seven-year-old boy battling leukemia whose wish was to be a police officer. So, in 1980, his Phoenix community came together to make that wish come true. His wish went on to create a movement transforming millions of lives, and today, this multi-national organization has granted hundreds of thousands of life-changing wishes to children with critical illnesses. According to the Make-A-Wish website,, “…Wishes are far more than gifts or singular events in time…” Yes, a wish is more than a singular event. Indeed, when a wish comes true, it can feel magical—so, having said that, I thank you in advance for allowing me to share yet another magical experience from my past. It’s a story I have never told about balloons, wind, and time and how a magical picture puzzle developed slowly, one piece at a time, over ten years. The first piece of this puzzle was in 1992, four years before Dave was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, when he explained that hot air balloons go wherever the wind blows them. As Dave morphed into a different person and me, with him as his caregiver, I frantically wondered how long his decline would last and, selfishly, how long before I would be free of the grueling job of caregiving. Fast forward ten years. By 2002, Dave’s illness had increased to a point where additional assistance was needed. Since I could no longer take him to work with me, I hired another caregiver to watch Dave during the day. I didn’t want to burden anyone with my inner turmoil, so I turned to God for answers. I prayed, and in my prayers, I continually asked God what to do, where to go, and when it would all be over. That’s when God magically answered me. I did not recognize God’s answer the first or second time, but by the third response, I was getting it. God’s advice came from a song on the car radio as I drove to work. It was an instrumental tune I always loved. For three consecutive weeks, at the same time of day and on the same road God communicated, “Cast Your Fate to the Winds.” Still unsure about its meaning, I continued to pray, “Please God, I need further explanation.” God heard my plea and answered by bringing me yet another song on my car radio, again about the wind. I finally understood as God sang Bob Dylan’s words, “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind; the answer is blowin’ in the wind.” My conclusion that wind represented the passage of time was an unsettling magical answer. So, once again, in prayer, I queried God, “Will I ever be happy again?” God’s third magical response came that summer on a Sunday morning when I was awakened by a familiar sound, one I had heard ten years earlier. It was the sound of hot air balloons. With Dave still asleep, I slipped out of bed and tiptoed to the living room where I peered out the large picture window. There they were, a whole bunch of them, hot air balloons traveling in a southerly direction. A few were close enough to see their corporate logos imprinted on the silk. One particular balloon, pulling in front of the others and headed for my house caught my attention. Squinting, I tried to see its large but blurred insignia. Knowing that whatever that insignia was, it would be a magical answer to my recent question. I retrieved my binoculars from inside a desk drawer, returned to the window, looked through the binoculars and what greeted me was the Make-A-Wish Foundation Eat’n Park balloon’s insignia … A large Smiley Face!

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