I always seem to have one of those birthdays which begins well before the Fourth and ends sometime a week later. It’s a wonderful time of year to have a birthday.
People are happy and carefree, beer and wine seem to run like water and the smell of barbecue fills the air. Bright colors of yellow corn, mom’s special potato salad, catchup and mustard bottles, red and white checkered tablecloths and hundreds of American flags are a feast as far as the eye can see. It appears as if everyone is celebrating my birthday.
Thursday night my neighbors and I walked down the street with our lawn chairs in tow to watch the fireworks spectacle from the fairgrounds. A neighbor left me a collection of Mylar Fourth of July balloons, a goofy Fourth of July hat and mums that look like stars from the sky. I love little surprises. A sense of peaceful happiness overcomes me. Growing old has never bothered me. I don’t bemoan fate – it’s a waste of precious time. I have much I still want to do with my life, so many things to look forward to. Life is a kick in the pants. I mean, come on – I have a birthday on the Fourth of July – how awesome is that? There is nothing a redhead loves more than a bunch of people drinking in her honor, smelling of charcoal burning hot dogs, while picking corn from their teeth as fireworks explode in the night’s sky.
This is the 48th year of my birth. A poignant birthday since my father died when he was 48. It seems unbelievably young as my 48th year stretches out before me like the Yellow Brick Road leading to Oz. I almost need to pull out his clipped obituary to see that I am the same age he was when he died. On this birthday, I miss him more than usual. Sometimes I still have a hard time understanding why he isn’t here telling me what is wrong with my life, while insisting on buying new tires for my truck. Of course, if I give him my look that always made him laugh, he’d empty his wallet and tell me not to say anything to my mother. I adored him. I miss his wise advise and my ability to coyly talk him into things that my mother would say no to – except for dating and men. No one was ever remotely good enough, and if he could have prevented me from dating until I was 30, his life would have been complete.
“Who’s that boy?”
“Dad! It’s just a friend.”
“Friend my ass. I know boys like him.”
“Dad. He’s just a friend.”
“Does he work?”
“Dad, he’s 16.”
“Yeah he should have a job. I had a job when I was his age…”
“But you smoked cigarettes when you were his age.”
“Everybody smoked. Don’t change the subject. Why isn’t he leaving?”
“Because Mom said he could stay for dinner. Will you be nice?”
“Young lady I will be however I want to be. If he is a man – he will survive. I suppose he will be eating my food too?”
Sigh. “Yes. He’s an honor student you know, and good with cars.”
“Good with cars …? Like I am ever going to let you get in a car with him.”
“Dad, he’s just a friend. Besides, I will never love anyone like you.”
“Do you need some money?”
Little did I realize during those years, cancer was slowly eating him from the inside out. I thought he would always be there in his recliner reading a book or laughing at some Jerry Lewis Dean Martin movie. Always there to go dancing with my mom, walk me down the aisle, bounce grandchildren on his knee or teach Brian how to drive a clutch. That “always” was about as permanent as the summer breeze.
On the Fourth a small group of friends threw me an intimate party in their home. We’ve been working together and supporting each other since the days of North American Mortgage – back in the 90’s when Brian was still in diapers. We laughed, told stories and shared our dreams for the future. We drank the sweet nectar of Northern California wines, ate birthday cake and passed around Tums and aspirin. Yep, we’re in our 40’s alright. I wonder if my Dad’s 48th birthday was as much fun. I was 17 at the time, but I just don’t remember. I am sure that he would have put his birthday cake in a drinking glass, poured in cold milk and ate it with a spoon.
Today we rest. Tomorrow we celebrate with my mother and some cousins at the Biggest Little Fourth Of July celebration in California. It starts at 10 in the morning with a parade that goes one city block. The entire town is just one block. I think my feet are longer. They close the street for the day and have a huge Fourth Of July celebration. I already know what one of my gifts is going to be, so I should be taking pictures and able to post photos again. That is if I can figure out the digital camera, which hopefully should be a step up from my old blurry camera phone photos.
I wonder if Brian will remember my 48th birthday…
“Can George come with us tomorrow?”
“I love you Mom…”
“Do you need some money?”
May all of you enjoy your family and friends this holiday weekend, for you never know when it might be your last. My “Big Uncle Bud” succumbed to his cancer and died yesterday. He was like a cowboy of the wild West – something right out of Lonesome Dove. How fitting he should die on the Fourth, and I am honored that he picked my birthday as the day to go party with my dad. I hope they are somewhere enjoying cake in a drinking cup filled with milk. They are probably making fun of the men I have dated and waiting for the day they show up in Heaven. I wonder if a dad and uncle could make a guy dig a ditch for eternity?
Happy Fourth of July.
Until next time –
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