The way July 4th used to be

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Yes, that’s me in the waist-high parachute shorts with a plastic ribbon clipped to my shirt, circa 1993. I must’ve thought I was a real winner.

As a kid, I spent several July 4ths with my grandparents. I remember getting ice cream at this little place near their house called Desta Cup, then driving to the Kmart parking lot to watch fireworks from their Buick.

My grandmother is in failing health now with her short-term memory getting shorter. She used to watch VHS documentaries about other places in the world, but now the spirit for travel has been reduced to the occasional trip out of the house. And that’s a hassle in itself.

She still carries on conversation and gets that twinkle in her eyes when she crinkles her nose in laughter, but I can feel the time with my grandparents slipping away. Mamaw will be 85 next week, although she doesn’t believe it. (According to her, she’s not even 80.)

And now there’s my grandfather.

This July 4 was met with a phone call from Mom telling me about Papaw’s recent trip to the doctor. He has nodules on his lungs and goes in tomorrow to see if they’re active. If so, the next step is a biopsy to see if they’re cancerous.

My hope and prayer is that nothing major is wrong, but even if it’s nothing, it’s a reminder that they’re grandparents, and our grandparents don’t usually outlive us.

That’s what I thought about for hours after Mom’s phone call.

Tuesday night, after getting together with friends, a few of us headed downtown to watch fireworks. I got a little choked up midway through as I stood there, looking up toward the skyscrapers to watch the explosion of color—one after another, boom, boom, boom. It was a beautiful night with great company, yet I would have given anything to be back in that maroon Buick, poking my head through the middle console as I finished off an ice cream cone and watched fireworks over Kmart.

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