Emotional Health

Fourth of July: Freedom, Fireworks, and Fathers

I had never before seen him through the eyes of other children. I found most other kids’ fathers a little scary, and almost never saw them except on this one day of the year. I was proud that my friend asked my tall, somewhat gruff dad to read along with her, but also surprised that she was comfortable enough to do so.

I was also very sorry for her. I had taken for granted that my father, busy as he was, would show up every year on fathers’ visiting day, shuttling between the classrooms of his three children. I was suddenly aware that he knew my friends’ names, and proud that they knew him, and grateful that he got so much pleasure out of the Fourth of July. And it was clear to me at that moment that Alex could count on none of those things.

Since that time, the divorce rate has risen until it reached a somewhat steady rate of 50 percent. Many children are born into families without any father at all, but different types of family structures are much more common and acceptable. Educators have become more sensitive to this too.  The school no longer has Fathers’ Day, replacing it with Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day so that everyone has a chance to have a visitor.

But since that day I never forgot the way Alex’s predicament made me feel, and even when I no longer wanted to go out on the boat to see the same old fireworks on the Fourth of July, I went, knowing that I was lucky that my father was so enthusiastic about these small moments. For kids, I learned that day, there are no small moments; they all count, and when you are a parent, you’ve got to show up.

And while fiery explosions in the sky, loud noise, and charred meat are not among my favorite things (even my dog dislikes two items on that list), I do have fond memories of family time that included my father. As we get older, it seems that our memories do get fuzzier, and yet the early ones burn as bright as sparklers on a summer night. And this year, I’ll celebrate it again, like so many of us who are privileged to live in The United States, where so many things are available to us and taken for granted. We continue these traditions for our families, to honor our country, and to reaffirm our commitment to safeguarding the value of freedom for all our citizens.

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  • Mickey M. June 29, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    Thank you so much, Dr. Ford, for sharing this about your father. Hugs to you and yours.