This brief story very tenderly deals with the life cycle; it deals with the maturing of a child and the aging of the adult; it deals with their relationship, their loyalty and devotion to each other. It deals with the love and loss they will have to come to terms with as a fact of life.
Noah is Ted’s son. Ted and his father did not have the greatest relationship because they were too different, but Ted’s son Noah and his father hit it right off. They have similar interests and they are very close. Noah and his grandpa have made lots of good memories together, but his grandpa is getting old and his own memories are fading. Grandpa knows that each day, he loses more and more of the world he once knew. He worries about losing the memory of those people who mean the most to him; he worries about drifting away. He wants Noah to be prepared for the day he may not know him, for the day he will no longer be. Noah, in his innocence and with the purity of his love for his grandpa, reassures him that he will help him to stay in this world with him. He will bring him back when his mind wanders. He will give him a blue balloon to tether him to earth and also to him. As his grandpa had comforted and guided him, Noah offers to do the same for his grandpa when the time comes.
Through the conversations Noah has with his grandpa, the beauty of their relationship is revealed. The story is told with such tenderness as the needs of father and child over four generations are revealed, that the reader may find his/her eyes grow moist. The reader will look through a window as Ted’s father and mother engage, as Ted and his father engage, as his father and Noah engage and as Noah and his own daughter eventually engage. In this short novella, the reader will watch as life goes full circle over several generations as day surely follows night. As Ted tended to his father, Noah will tend to his and his daughter will tend to him; this process will go on and on as life goes on and on.
This is a story about love and life simply and elegantly told. The reader will come to understand the message that as the young grow older and stronger, the old grow older and more infirm. As the young make new memories, the elderly lose their old memories. As the world of the young widens, the world of the elderly begins to shrink, but this is not sad; it is the circle of life. When it is dominated by love and devotion for each other, it is beautiful. Perhaps it is Pollyanna, but if so, I prefer Pollyanna.
Backman’s stories, in their simplicity and honesty, are an exercise in pleasure. Exploring the most ordinary concepts, he creates profound understanding, and even with the most difficult subjects, like life and death, he manages to make the tale uplifting and filled with hope for the future.