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T he Fourth of July has always had a special place in my heart. It was the holiday I always looked forward to most as a kid, second only to Christmas. My dad was a Staff Sergeant (E6) in the United States Army, and knew a few things about explosives — which came in handy every Fourth. We’d go outside and blow stuff up using firecrackers or whatever fireworks we had on hand.
That was a great day. We shot off so many fireworks and just went absolutely nuts. We were lighting off fireworks all day and into the night. I’m sure the neighbors couldn’t wait for the day to be over. But it was worth it. We had a blast. Over the next couple of years, we celebrated Independence Day in style. But when I was 30, my wife and I had brought a new life into the world: our son, Benjamin. As a baby, he wasn’t too thrilled with the loud explosions, so we toned it down a bit.
We would blow stuff up all day long. Then, in the middle of it all, we’d have a feast of homemade ice cream, cake, watermelon, and all the Fourth classics. After an explosive day, we’d head out to watch a local fireworks display. Every Fourth of July was a good time. When I turned 17, our annual Fourth of July tradition was put on hold. I got a summer job selling educational books, which took me away from home. And I was working on the Fourth. At first, as I was working away that summer, I didn’t feel homesick. I was busy, and my mind was preoccupied with the job at hand. Then on the day of July 4, it hit me like a ton of bricks (or, in this case, a ton of books). I realized just how much spending the Fourth with my dad meant to me. But I had a job to do, and for the next 10 years, I missed the Fourth with my dad.
And it stayed toned down. With small kids, we kept the excitement and explosions much more controlled. Then my family and I moved from Kansas City to Louisiana (and eventually Texas), and I realized our yearly tradition was behind us. But those are still some really good memories. In 2017, I was moving the week of July 4. I got a text from my dad letting me know how much he enjoyed spending the Fourth with me and all the craziness we got into. It was nice. I called him back and let him know the same. He passed away a month later. When the Fourth of July rolled around last year, it was a tough day. But I’m thankful for the memories we made together. We had many good years together, and we blew up so much stuff! I’m sure Independence Day this
Finally, when I was 28, I was home on July 4. We had put off our family tradition for 10 years, and you can bet we made up for it. I went out and bought at least a $100 worth of fireworks. My dad did the same. I have no doubt we ended up spending several hundred dollars that day. My dad had one thought on his mind: “Let’s do this!”
year will be tough for me again. I’m proud of my dad for serving his country and just being an all-around great dad, and my mind will be on those memories we shared.
–Ja y Willi s
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