Sunday, July 4, 2010

And The Rocket's Red Glare


If I imagine really hard, I can pretend that I am in a bunker hiding from dropping bombs as opposed to hiding in my apartment as fireworks blast off outside on the Fourth of July.

I just got off the phone with my mom who was at the nursing home with my dad.

"Mom, drive home, Okay?"

"I know. I know. I want to get out of here before the downtown fireworks are over."

"I just watched the PBS Capitol Fourth Special. I can't wait until this day is over."

"I know. I watched the New York fireworks. And the Boston fireworks. Dad's heart rate was really low tonight. OK, I am leaving to avoid the traffic."

Ah, holidays. If you are not yet a part of the elite crowd that hates them, one day (if you are unlucky enough) you just might be.

I never understood this as a child. I picked up on the grumpiness of certain adults around Christmas and Valentine's Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving. What was the big deal, I always wondered. Are these adults fun haters?

It wasn't until this holiday, this Fourth of July, that I was able to come full circle in a year of holidays marred by my dad's cancer. I remember last Fall thinking:

  • Oh, God, his birthday will be so sad.
  • What about my birthday after his? Will we skip it?
  • What ever will we do during Thanksgiving?
  • Holy shit, if he's still sick by Christmas, that is going to suck...
And so on and so forth. What you cannot picture at the time of anticipation leading up to the holiday is that you actually will make it through, awkward as it might seem. But now that a year has rolled round and we are embarking on the second lap at making the best of the holidays, how should I approach the years to come?

It is tough to know what is proper, but this is what I have figured out:

Cancer or no cancer, paralyzed Father or not, this Fourth of July is the last miserable holiday I will spend alone hating other people with normal lives. I will not be cowering in fear of the Grand Finale fireworks come next summer.

I am already mapping out positive changes. For example, this year when I turn 30, I am having a big Brazilian party at my place. And when turkey time comes, I am inviting as many foreigners as I can find to my Aunt's house for the big meal. (I used to bring foreign exchange students to Thanksgiving when I was in High School. It gave the holiday more meaning somehow.) I will start planning something crazy to do on Christmas, like dressing up as Santa and taking little kids sledding.

A tragedy in my life does not make me a social outcast. I have every right to celebrate the holidays and enjoy the memories exactly as you with your perfect lives do.

I'll step back. I know you don't have perfect lives. I am not that dumb. But I also know that you probably don't have a gaping hole in your family. You probably have a pretty normal life. Let's face it – it's just not that common in our young and privileged world to be wondering about death day in, day out.

Today is the start.
It is my own celebration. 
An Independence Day from my Pain.
A goal to separate gratitude from grief and giddiness from guilt. 
A step forward into normalcy.

The beginning of a new life.

1 comment:

  1. You are amazingly beautiful. I want to respond to every post but I'm almost embarrassed at how much of a fan I am off your talent and bravery as a writer. I don't want to come off as a freak. This is incredible stuff you're writing...And I'm so far behind the times... my heart goes out to you and your family then and now.