Who's Holding Your Invisible Strings?

July 20, 2015

If you've ever struggled with a mental illness or cared for someone struggling, you know how unpredictable life can be. The only thing certain is uncertainty.

But for me, there has been a secret weapon that has silently, invisibly kept me afloat all this time: the love of my life, Tom.

We were friends first, having met by chance while working in a community theatre project together, a musical: Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka. I was the director and Tom played Grandpa Joe.

If you are familiar with the story, you know that Grandpa Joe and Charlie experiment with a "Fizzy Lifting Drink" during their chocolate factory tour and they both end up flying. This stunt, as well as a few other flying scenes, were critical to the believability of the show--they had to be done right. Our production team rented an impressive flying mechanism, complete with special flight training for our four actors and four flight crew members. We took every precaution to ensure the safety of the stunts, but even then, we knew that one slight mistake could be fatal.

Good thing I trusted our flight crew. One of the members was my older son, then 18 years old. He was smart, reliable and strong, a perfect choice.

During rehearsals, I remember Tom brought the entire flight crew their favorite soft drinks, a six-pack of Mountain Dew or a jug of Arnold Palmer, whatever they liked. My son was so thrilled that Tom thought to bring him his own special treat just for working backstage.

As the director, I was impressed and thanked Tom. I remember his response: "You have to recognize the crew of any production. They are what holds it all together. They need to feel important because they are."

He was right. Those working in the background often go unnoticed, yet it's their tireless efforts that keep everything running smoothly. And in the case of Willy Wonka, they were the ones who kept our performers alive. In fact, my son was a flyer for Tom, meaning he operated some of the invisible wires that suspended him high overhead while he flipped somersaults on stage. So quite literally, my son had Tom's life in his hands.

A few months after the production ended, my son's world fell apart. He spiraled into a blackhole of mental illness that, ultimately, landed him behind bars. He is still incarcerated today.

It hasn't been easy. In fact, it's been the most difficult time in my life. And at first, I felt completely alone. But then, thankfully, Tom stepped in "backstage" and took hold of my invisible strings, helping me hold it all together, keeping me alive.

I dedicate this post to all those selfless flight crew members out there who are holding invisible strings everyday. You should feel special, because you are.

Thank you, Tom. Happy Anniversary.

*The photo above is of Tom, suspended in the air during a flight rehearsal for Willy Wonka, holding his strings is my son.

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