Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Commercializing It

I've never been a HUGE fan of 4th of July. When I was little I was easily mesmerized by the first few explosions of light, but the sound did me in. But it was 'cool' as I was getting older, to like them. Sure. I liked them. I liked the camaraderie. I despised the sound. I loved the lights. Hard to get one without the other, though.

When I was 17, a car full of friends were killed in a horrific 4th of July drunken car accident. I was forever changed.

Then I hated it. Refused to celebrate, or by any other means acknowledge this 'holiday.' I grieved for my friends, lit candles, and prayed. Visited the site of the crash, and kept in contact with their parents.

4 years later (this is a good story, to be told perhaps next July...) I was pregnant with Middle Bebe, Nat. I remember thinking on the evening of the 3rd of July, how thankful I was that I hadn't gone into labor yet because there's NO WAY I would handle having a baby on the anniversary of my friends' deaths. But no. In true Meg fashion, I woke up about 8 am the next morning, in the throws of labor, gathered hubby, a bag, and a plate of pancakes, pawned off Lu by 830. Arrived at the hospital about 9. Little Miss Fire Cracker herself showed up approximately 15 (FIFTEEN!!!!) minutes later. Oy.

No choice now, but to deal with it. And feel aptly humbled and shaken at the prospect of what had just happened.

Then 9/11 happened just a few months following. Then hubby was a fire fighter, and later joined the Marine Corps. I think all of that, added to then losing my mom when I was 26, I really tried to re-evaluate. Everything, every moment, every memory, took on a new meaning, a new purpose. Life was not disposable.

I do find myself to be readily and happily patriotic. Mostly because I support my grandfather's, uncles', dad's, and then hubby's drive to serve and protect this beloved country. I value their dedication, and their commitment. I never want them to feel they are not appreciated. Every little bit counts.

As then hubby began to suffer more with the panic attacks, and confusion, and PTSD, my view of the 4th of July celebrations changed as well. (Much like my veteran's day parade post...) what is the purpose of these celebrations? I wavered back and forth, not knowing exactly what it was I was feeling, just knowing it didn't feel right.

When hubby died, as distraught as I was, his local volunteer fire department, and his USMC unit came along side me. They would not let me go. They held me tight. They supported me boldly, quietly if needed, providing a never ending source of emotional support. Looking back I can see it. At the time I could feel it, but I couldn't name it. I knew it was there, and as I look back I appreciate it even more. They continued to check on me and the girls, came over for work days, brought dinner by, invited us to functions.

Bringing this back... the point of 4th of July is what? Really is there a purpose? It's the birthday of the United States, yes? Is it the event itself we're proud of? The people who gave their lives to ensure we were given the chance at a free-er life?

As I'm a several years out from the 4th of July car accident, and the loss of hubby, I've found a different kind of refuge in these folks. Yes they are strong. Yes they are courageous. Yes they are heroes (as are many of you, if given the opportunity to let YOUR story be heard.) Yes they get to wear fancy uniforms, and fight the unthinkable fights, and run the unthinkable calls, and yet... and yet... they are human. This far out, the balance of my needing their strength has turned more into a mutual friendship. They can share these things with me, that they are human, and not perfect.

I've been profoundly changed  by these people who have opened up to me. I know that they have struggles. They have struggles, and have flashbacks, and PTSD, and so, so much more.

Let me wrap this up, I really do have a point here.

I'm all for a good show, and a few moments of distracted bliss, but really, REALLY... we find it necessary to blow things up on the 4th of July, in celebration of the USA's birth, and indirectly those who have, and who continue to try and keep this country safe and as it was intended...free. Are we mocking them? Mimicking war, fire fights, explosions? Never mind the fact that those who fought past wars, served over seas, saw combat, this doesn't really acknowledge their contribution. It commercializes it. It doesn't do it justice. Call it what you want, but really folks, let's name it appropriately.

I have friends who 'hit the deck' when the Roaring Camp Confederate War re-enactments start up. The BOOMs send them to the ground, in an effort to save their lives. It's instinctive. That's what they were trained to do (for us). I survived (barely) hubby's bouts of worsening  PTSD, the nightmares, the endless panic attacks, the delusions, and the triggers. He didn't survive. But I did.

Last night Nat after her birthday festivities, she was invited with a friend to a BBQ, and then fireworks. (Feeling very blessed. I WOULD have taken her, but boy oh boy it's awesome when someone offers to take her, and I get to avoid large crowds, and explosions.) Instead I spent the evening at home with the other two girls, and the new guy. I watched him flinch at every illegal firecracker that went off in the valley. He put up a good front, but it's all in the eyes.

I just wish there was a way to make it all ok. Let us celebrate 4th of July. Yes, let's. Fire works are fine too. But really, are we not advanced enough to appreciate and NOT hinder that very same group of people. I don't know how to fix it. I just know how to complain about it so far. Not great. But it's what's on my heart. Heavily.


Jennifer said...

I have always loved the 4th of July. It's a big deal for our family. We all get together and celebrate our beautiful life. It wasn't until I married my husband and we had our first 4th on our own that I realized that he and I see the 4th very differently. I completely understand watching the big burly tough guy you love hitting the deck when a firework goes off, or waking up in a panic because the neighbors are shooting them off days later.

I have a hard time with the all or nothing we're faced with. I still adore the ideas of getting together with my family and celebrating our lives, but I understand that it's too difficult for the other half of my marriage. So, when he is in the states, we have quiet 4ths, TV up loud to help drown out the explosions or we go to the movies or find something else to do.

Long ramble, to tell you - I do get it! I understand how difficult it can be. Love you!

Mary Thomas said...

Incredible. I have noticed the parallel of the sounds on the fourth, but hadn't thought of how those with first hand experience with real battle would be impacted by them. Now I will think of them every year. We stick with sparklers, anyway. I'm not into the illegal stuff, I keep thinking they are going to lose a hand or something.