It’s the 4th of July. Well, almost. This time of year always brings me back to my father. Back story for those of you who don’t know me. My Dad died when I was three and half. He was working with the volunteer fire company to set of our town’s annual fireworks display. I believe the annual display was postponed at the last minute due to rain. Then when the day came for the display, a homemade cannon was set off to let everyone know that it was about to start. He was across the lake. I was at Edgemere. I remember that. The cannon exploded and sent shrapnel through my father’s body that would eventually kill him within the week.
I remember spending my early days making sure that things like the Fourth of July and fireworks didn’t bother me. These were things that kids were supposed to enjoy and I think I wanted badly to have time where I felt like a normal kid. It was a relief to go to friends’ houses with sparklers and little ground explosions and just try to enjoy them, not thinking about the emotional toll it may have on my family. I remember being at Walt Disney World, heading home after the parade on the monorail to a big fireworks display and seeing my mother cry. I felt sad both for her and for me, that we could just enjoy this American joy.
Now, my Mom has worked very hard on making us not feel this way; really this is not her shit. She is cut and dry. Reality based. I used to tell her she was a pessimist and she would look and me and say, “No, I’m a realist.” I see this as a good way to be. Not for me, I could never do it. I’m way to emotional, dramatic, living loud and hard on a daily basis to let realism cloud my world. She never said anything to remind us we shouldn’t be enjoying a holiday or a season or a date because we had a loss. She wanted us to enjoy life. I wish I could be her. I can’t. We are of a different make up, even though she is where I come from. But, I know that some of this has rubbed off on me. I get annoyed with the woman who gets depressed and goes to be the psych unit every year because her 90 year old father died on this date 13 years ago. This is life.
This year I had an odd experience that shook me. And this I get from my rock of a mother, things don’t shake me easily. I had a patient on Monday, Fourth of July week, come in to complain about a burn on his foot. It was his inner toe. It was minor without infection. He denied pain. He was just worried because he wore boots all day and didn’t want an infection. So, then he begins to tell me how he sustained his injury. He is a welder by trade, but this didn’t occur at work. He told me how excited he was because he was building cannon. He told me about this pond, and everyone works to make the best cannon with the loudest boom.
This was not something I was expecting. I never thought much about homemade cannons, and never thought I would have to treat a patient with an injury sustained in the making, especially not so close to the anniversary of my father’s death. I didn’t do much. Basic burn first aid education while being mildly distracted by being sideswiped with unexpected emotions. And then later that day I started to wonder why he was there. And here I get a little mythical and magical. Shit. Was I supposed to warn this guy to be careful? Why did he transfer care from his providers up the road? This just feels a little weird. And I don’t have answers on this one. I just know it has brought my father’s death to the forefront. And my father’s role in my life now, which is where I’m really going here.
I experienced a group psychic reading with a bunch of great friend s in the summer of 2009. She was amazing. She named by name without prompting, the name of the person that killed a good friend’s father. She told me that she saw two people, one older than the other, and both had the same name. Both my father and my deceased brother were named David. And then she told me that my Dad was sick of gripping the dashboard and I needed to slow down. She was so right on.
And now I’ve been working in a job that can be stressful at times. There are nights when I have to dash into the hospital, and I’m usually, at least on some level, scared. Those nights, in my little car without any fancy back support seats, I can feel what I can only describe as kicking from the backseat, much like when David, my son, sits behind me and becomes inpatient. The more stressed about the situation, the more I feel it. And I feel it is my Dad with me. And this is a great thing.
This is not to be confused with a story of sadness. This is about having more and more realization that my Dad is with me when I need him. And I’m ok with that now. I don’t need to pretend that the Fourth isn’t sad. I don’t need to pretend it didn’t happen and that fireworks don’t make me flinch. This is who I am. This made me who I am. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.