The Unexpected Present

Independence on the Fourth of July

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It’s Saturday afternoon of this Fourth of July weekend and I’m sitting in the hospital Starbucks waiting for Yuri to go through his three-hour outpatient treatment. Unlike most of the employees in the hospital, we don’t get weekends off when scheduled, no matter if it’s a holiday weekend. I’m happy he’s out of the hospital and getting better slowly but surely in Home Rehab for three weeks now and if there is an easier course of action to go out for fireworks, I would coordinate a plan because I love the Fourth of July fireworks on my favorite holiday of the year.

July 4th was my father’s birthday. After coming to the U.S. in 1950, he married my mother, started a family, built with fellow immigrants, a Ukrainian diaspora community, and became an American citizen. One question asked was “Why is the Fourth of July celebrated?” Without skipping a beat, he proudly announced, “It’s my birthday.” Lucky duck. It’s the best birthday ever. You always get the day off, everyone has the day off, and you always get fireworks.

Our family spent many long Fourth of July weekends at the country home that my parents loved. May and June were spent getting the place ready for the next two months leading up to the big day. It would usually be a warm summer day with time to go and take a dip at the nearby lake then fish for trout at Eldred Preserve before starting up the charcoal grill. After an all-day picnic with family and friends, whoever had the initiative would take the ride down Peggy Hill Runway and gather with like-minded locals at the Narrowsburg bridge where the Fire Department set the night sky ablaze. For the short time, it seemed never-ending until the final booms and eruptions of applause signaled it was over.

It’s twelve years since the last time we celebrated his birthday in Narrowsburg and I miss those Fourth of July days. Yuri never got to know my father, but he realized rich my relationship with my father was during the last few years of his life and how much I needed to keep the lovely memories of him with the tradition of picnics and fireworks. We tried to maintain it a few times but the glue seems to be gone as everyone has traditions of their own nowadays. After a couple of years, we made it to the bridge, and sat on the rocks overlooking the river for a better view, forgetting how dark and treacherous pathways back the way home can be without a flashlight.

No matter that he wasn’t enamored by the fireworks as I remain to this day, Yuri managed to comply with my desire for catching the sight of whistling explosions in glorious arrays of sweeping trailings. Swirls and integrating colors transforming into sparkling showers following the wakes of sudden eruptions of pops and booms keep me spellbound throughout the show. Despite the often crazy traffic that follows such events, we managed to find a view from some mountain top eventually resorting to the rooftop of the family homestead on Arlington Avenue. It didn’t matter to him, but he wanted me to have my happy moment and it was a special time and place for us, a celebration of Independence Day.

Currently, we are celebrating independence from most of the intravenous intrusions and this may very well be one of the final outpatient treatments as Yuri is coming back physically in very positive ways. The doctors we have now are trustworthy and understand our desire for integrative and complementary medical care– Naturopathy, a system of alternative medicine based on theories that diseases can be successfully treated or prevented with limited and ultimately without the use of drugs. Investigating techniques such as nutrition, exercise, massage, CBD, medical marijuana, Yuri’s music, puppy love, homebaked cookies, and other treatments that will bring us back to the garden. It’s still a long way home but we’re on the right road to recovery.

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