Sunday, July 4, 2010

Going Fourth

In 1987, I watched the fireworks from the back of a pick-up truck, careful not to jostle my father, who was on a foam mattress in the bed of the truck. He had long since stopped driving. "Long" being about three months prior, after his first surgery to remove a ferocious brain tumor. The ensuing radiation did little to stop the cancer. Four weeks after the first surgery, he had another. The new tumor was nearly as large as the first one.

This was my third visit since the first surgery. It would be my last to see him. Four days after watching the Florida sky light up to the beat of patriotic music, he died.

I had known at the time that it was really only a matter of time. When I boarded a plane back to San Francisco on July 6, I hadn't realized how brief his time here was. Had I known, I wouldn't have gone back. I wouldn't have gone to L.A. for business the next day, only to find myself on a pay phone at the Department of Water and Power on July 8, talking death and travel details.

All these years later, I still remember watching the lame-ass fireworks from some rinky-dink shopping center parking lot. When the skies light up each year, I'm watching, now with Pete and the kids. But I'm not always looking at the fireworks in the here and now.

Often, I'm looking at the reflection of the fireworks in my dad's glasses, stealing last glances before the  darkness falls.


Blondie said...

For those of us who have lost a parent suddenly or without adequate preparation, every holiday can become an "if only..." But Life doesn't often grant "Mulligans" and "Do Overs." It usually only allows us choices and opportunities. I don't think your Dad would remember you flying home on July 6th. I think he remembers that you were there and took him out to see fireworks, just like everyone else on the 4th of July.

Last 4th of July, I was up until 2:00 in the morning holding my daughter, and crying with her and trying to comfort her, after she "lost it" because we pretended to have our traditional 4th of July celebration at her grandparent's house, but her Grandma was so very much not there.

We had 4th of July at my house this year, and I spent the weekend doing all of those things my mother did when I was my kid's age. I picked up where she left off because that is what she would have wanted me to do.

Anonymous said...

Our memories of final moments spent with parents who have left us for the spiritworld are indeed bittersweet. My dad and his girlfriend flew to San Antonio in late October for a weekend gathering of my children, my husband and me. It had been many years since we were all together and we had a truly wonderful, fun time, even though it was clear that this would probably be the last time we would see him alive. Eight weeks later he died suddenly, and now we treasure the memories of those happy days even more. I know you will always think of your dad on the 4th of July, and I assure you that he is right there with you every time you do!

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...


Much love, hon. Much, much, much love.


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