Living: He’s with Me and Two Kids in the Bed

On the Fourth of July in an open field in Coma we celebrated the birthday of America. This was the first celebration for me in the bed of a Dodge 1500.
Like every experience in life, it was who I did it with that mattered: my friend Robert McGuiness and my two boys (eating too much cotton candy).

Last year we actually went in to Fireman’s Field where they show the fireworks but after taking four hours to leave because every car in town was packed in to a place with only two exits we decided to park in a field near the fireworks and watch. There were other people in trucks there, too. One engineering guy brought an entire sound system which seems like overkill in the year of the iphone and ihome.

He was playing some bluegrass music really loud and I thought of Michael and how after he died I thought I would never want to watch firework or other fun things. I thought if I lost him everything would lose its sweetness and hope would dry up.

Fireworks Sellers

I look at Robert and he tells me “Stop talking so we can listen to the music.”

The boys are stuffing in the cotton candy and playing legos. They are quiet because we went to a park earlier and ran some spazz out.

A guy walks up wearing a shirt with and American flag on it and says, “You guys want to come sit with us?” Robert shakes his head no and for a minute I think, “If Micheal was still here he’d say ‘yes’ and jump over and have a beer with them and warble the national anthem at the top of his lungs.’

And then I realize Michael is not here, that things change, that we move on.

In the silence before the fireworks I realize–

“Mommy, Mommy!” Johnny screams from the back of the truck bed.

I turn to see that his little brother has thrown up all over the bed of the truck. I look over at Robert and he smiles. He reaches down and squeezes my hand.

As I clean up Jimmy, I hear the guy with the beer gut and the long hair singing. He sings about America. He sings about failure and heartbreak and forgiveness. He sings a song about who we are and what we can be. He sings a song of promise. He is a terrible singer and he sings off key. He doesn’t sing about the barriers to who we are but rather all the things we have in common.

And just as I finish cleaning up Billy, the fireworks begin. Red, white and blue light the sky.

In the middle of the explosions, little Johnny starts singing, “My country twist of thee, sweet lands of liver-ty, of thee I sing…”

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