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.