If I am honest, I have long met the Fourth of July holiday with equal parts love and loathing. When I was a child, it seemed a fun day plunked in the middle of lots of fun, endless, summer days. Since my father's (and also, actually, my godfather's) birthday is on July 4, we never tired of the jokes about who the fireworks were really for. As a young adult, I was typically working on the holiday, which never made me happy, but it was guaranteed to be either a dull and newsless day or an eventful rush of drownings, fireworks mishaps, and drunk driving tragedies. When my parents moved to the lake, we had a beautiful, new place to celebrate the holiday, and we often invited friends out with us.
Then, we had our own children, and then we moved to the lake. My parents were gracious enough to surrender hosting to us; it was just easier to stay put with our little kids. Even though it is easier, it is still a lot of work, and I have always been grateful the day is for "just family" (and friends close enough to be called family) because they never have high expectations, and they always pitch in to help.
Two years ago over the Independence Day weekend, we were hit with waves of strong thunderstorms that caused considerable damage to our lakeside property. Landscaping, lawn and beach washed away; the dock, boat and Jet Ski were all damaged; tree branches covered the yard. Our faithful family swooped in to help, and the celebration was low-key that year because there was so much to repair.
It was seeing my father-in-law Harlan try to help that weekend that my whole outlook changed. He was red-faced, moving slowly, taking long and frequent breaks, and he was silent, even for his quiet self. "He is not OK." I thought it to myself, but I didn't know what to make of it. I pulled aside my husband and told it to him. Todd shrugged, which is Todd's response to pretty much everything. I hissed it to my sister-in-law Lisa, who agreed, and said she'd been discussing it with her mom.
In the weeks that followed, there was a family road trip, with more troubling signs. Doctor visits and tests were arranged. Finally, about two months after Independence Day, he had a diagnosis: esophageal cancer.
The following July, last year, was a joyous time. Harlan was doing well. The surgery and treatment worked. Everyone was together. It was just HOT.
Now, to this Independence Day, where both my FILs are in health-changing positions: Todd's dad Ardy is getting along swimmingly, after some serious health problems that began plaguing him around the Christmas/New Year's holidays. His doctor visits continue and his wife is a caregiver with a watchful eye. They joined us for supper and a boat ride on the Fourth. Meantime, Harlan is facing a new battle, with a metastasis of his cancer. Treatment begins tomorrow, and we will all be there in spirit.
The knowledge made this Independence Day celebration all the sweeter. When parents and children and grandchildren and dear friends can all spend a day in leisurely love and laughter on the lake, it is a very good day indeed.
God bless America, my home, sweet, home!