Monday, July 5, 2010

What Do You Like Best About Independence Day?

Ask most people their favorite part of Independence Day, and their automatic response would be “The fireworks.” What’s not to love about exploding patterns of brilliant color and the thunderous booms of deluxe pyrotechnical wonders?

The fireworks displays are not my favorite part of the holiday, perhaps because as a Vietnam Veteran, Jim had serious problems dealing with the warlike sounds. Have you ever thought about how hard it is to make it through the 4th of July without being exposed to fireworks? It’s really unavoidable.

As dementia began to affect his reasoning, Jim regressed to the time of war and the posttraumatic stress that went with it. He called me at work one day. “Those boys! Those mean boys!” I couldn’t get him to tell me what had happened. I was afraid he had hit one of them with the car. I came home to see what had upset him so much, and he finally stopped shaking long enough to tell me the neighbor boys had set off some firecrackers as he drove by.

So after years of avoiding fireworks, I’ve watched the fireworks display at Truman Lake for the past two years. J.B. and Wanda have their house festively decorated and the food is fantastic. The breeze and cooler temperatures this year were perfect for sitting on the back patio visiting with them and my son and daughter-in-law.

More important than the fireworks and food is spending time with friends and family. My sixteen-year-old grandson lit the fireworks in the yard. Between choosing and lighting the fireworks, he checked his cell phone for text messages. My twelve-year-old granddaughter and I made arrangements to go see the latest vampire movie. My grandchildren are growing up so fast that I chide myself for being so involved in work and writing projects that I don’t spend enough time with them.

While I was at the lake, my youngest son and his family drove to my house to watch fireworks at Julie’s backyard celebration. It doesn’t seem that long ago that when Rob and Julie’s brother wanted to go, Julie always asked, “Can I go with?”

After an evening spent with friends, Rob and his family planned to leave early for their Colorado vacation. They were asleep by the time I got home, but my seven-year-old granddaughter met me at the door with a hug. She always sleeps with me, and had told her mom and dad she was waiting up for “Grandma Linda.” I tucked her in and she was fast asleep by the time I was ready for bed.

The next morning, she cuddled up next to me while I drank my coffee and opened the “Why?” book. I read the questions, and she read the answers. While she read about molecules, my youngest grandson brought his play golf game into the living room to practice his swing. You would have thought he made a hole in one when he hit the ball over his dad’s head and into the space between the couch and wall. Then he found a handheld bowling game and wanted his dad to make it work.

“The batteries must be dead,” Rob said. Pretty soon, the game was up and running.

“You must have figured it out,” I said. Rob told me he hadn’t figured it out at all. I guess you can’t expect a grownup to compete with an almost three-year-old.

Spending time with family was always Jim’s favorite activity. If he had never had dementia, I bet he would have tolerated, perhaps enjoyed, watching the brilliant aerial kaleidoscopes while surrounded by loved ones. It is for certain he would have been a proud dad and grandpa if he could see his family now. Jim would have savored every moment and have recognized the thunderous sounds to be a national celebration of independence and known that he had done his part to keep America free.

copyright (c) July 2010 L.S. Fisher
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