Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Some Thoughts On The 4Th Of July

I don't remember my father's birthday.   I don't remember the date of his death.  These are secrets that are locked away in the heart of a little boy.  But there is one day, each year, that I wake up thinking of my dad.  Every July 4th I spend the day lost in a cloud of nostalgia.  It is not only the recollection of parades and cookouts, but also connected to some of the few memories I have left of my short time with him.

Every year in Evanston, Central Street is roped off for a mile and a half stretch between Bent Park and the Northwestern football stadium for the annual parade.  I remember as a five year old driving from lamp post to lamp post down the street with my dad.  On each block, he would get out of the car and stand a ladder against the post.  I would hand him the two large flags, and he would climb up and perch them above the street.

Later that year, after the parade, the kids gathered in the back yard for fireworks smuggled in from Wisconsin.  After a few small ones, my dad lit what looked like a small bomb, and ran to the corner of the yard.  The blast was so loud and the power so great that it blew the glasses right off his face.

***

Year after year, I make the pilgrimage to the Central Street Parade with my family for at least a few minutes.  I won't lie, I have occasionally missed here and there.  But every morning, I wake up with a clear plan in my mind.

This year will be different.  My son is now old enough to be busy with various after school and summer activities, and for one of these, we both have been asked to walk in the parade. Although I have promised him I would, I can't say I'm excited about it.  The ninety degree heat and soaking humidity notwithstanding, I feel a certain sense of betrayal towards my father.  This is not how we celebrated!

The indignity of death is that memories fade.  Now as a father myself, I will create new traditions with my son and daughter.  I fear that as I grow older, when I think of July 4th, I'll remember the day I walked in the parade with my son and not the fleeting moments I have left of my dad.

When you become a parent you learn to sublimate your own needs.  You let go of a bit of your dreams to help your hapless offspring fulfill theirs.  As I walk the parade with my son this afternoon, maybe I will have more in common with my father than before..

Maybe, I will be even closer to him.

1 comment:

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

The Fourth is the birthday of my late younger sister so the joys that accompanied the holiday in my youth have been covered over with sorrow and tears as the fireworks light the sky. I will miss her like nobody's business for the rest of my life.