Not written here for a bit. There’s a few reasons for that. Life gets in the way, as per usual. But in this case it was more of an emotional/psychological bit of thing going on. Since 2010, the 4th of July has always been hard for me to handle and deal with, and in the last few years it’s been especially bad emotionally, for different reasons.
Growing up, July 4th was never just America’s Independence Day. It was my father’s birthday as well. My dad was born in Cuba, and came to the US when he was (I think) 9 years old. He always thought it was funny and really cool that his birthday was Independence Day. We always had cake, usually some variation of red, white, and blue in some way. Some years we even had actual sparklers on the cake. Cookouts every year, rain or shine. If it were raining then… well, the basement door, which was more of a giant garage door, would be opened up and set to an angle. The grill placed just below it, technically outside, but just barely.
Life was so very far from peachy, especially the last 10 years before my mom and I left my dad in Florida. Often for holidays, even his birthday, entire dinners would be thrown into the trash because he didn’t tell any of us he was going to head over to his sisters for the entire evening instead of come home for the holiday meal. And none of us were allowed to touch the dinner until he was home There were a lot of problems then – ones that most parties that are still alive agree could have been handled better. And pretty much all of us were suffering from mental illness in one form or another.
So to say that holidays for me are rough is an understatement. I’ve managed to work through my issues with nearly all of the standard holidays because those were easier to deal with. They were JUST holidays. Many of which I’m able to focus on other people for. Christmas? Spoil my kid rotten. Halloween? Take my kid out trick-or-treating! Easter? Here comes the easter bunny! New Years? Valentines? Father’s Day? Focus on my husband. Celebrate fresh starts and new ideas with him. Celebrate the fact that Valentine’s is exactly one week after the anniversary of when we started dating. Father’s Day is for dads, and my husband is my kid’s dad. Mother’s Day? Hey I’m a mom, and so is my mom! Thanksgiving? Surround myself with my family. St. Patrick’s Day? My husband’s part Irish and likes to drink so why the fuck not. (Unlike most on St. Patrick’s Day my husband actually IS part Irish, not just claiming to be. He’s also part Sicilian and has a blood card somewhere for Cherokee so, that’s a fun combination.)
But… Independence Day is much harder for me to refocus. Had the story simply ended in 2010 with my mom and I leaving, I think I could have been able to refocus it easier. But… in 2013 my life changed in a huge way. And by 2014, my perspective on many things had changed. I now finally could see things from the other side, and I regretted a LOT of things I had said and done, especially to those of my family I left behind in Florida. But mostly my dad. The last thing I ever said to him was on the phone after receiving a letter from him. I used someone else’s phone so he wouldn’t have my number to reach me. I told him I hated him, and never wanted him to contact me again. That I didn’t need him and I was happier without him. That was roughly a week after I started dating my husband in 2013.
And to this day it eats me alive knowing that’s the last thing I said to him. Later that year, he had a massive mental breakdown, resulting in his inability for quite some time to recognize anyone, even my baby sister who had been stuck taking care of him. He had the breakdown around the time I started telling people I was pregnant (I was a few months along at that point) and I had made it known that I didn’t want him to know, that I didn’t want him to know anything about me or my life. I don’t know if he ever found out or not. After my son was born, I did try to make amends the only way I knew how. But I didn’t have a good phone number for him. I didn’t even know if he still lived at the address he was at when I left after staying with him for six months looking or work in 2011. I contacted a sister of mine, to ensure I had the right address. I sent him a card, apologizing for my actions and words and acknowledging that I had hurt him in such a way that no one should ever hurt another, let alone their parent. I sent a picture of myself and my son, and my son and my husband with the card. I don’t even know if he ever received it – as I came to find out later that he wasn’t at that address anymore.
He died a few years ago.
Heart failure, from what I understand.
I’m not making this post for pity or sympathy. I want to make that VERY clear right damn now. Just… just trying to work out my feelings and put them into better words than I did for my therapist on Friday when I brought it up with her. The closer the calendar gets to July 4th, the more withdrawn I tend to become. And after the holiday, it takes me a bit to re-enter the world so to speak. I try to separate my personal feelings from the actual holiday of Independence Day, and I do the typical Fourth of July activities. Cookouts. Burgers and hotdogs. Lots of soda. Fireworks. Oh the fireworks. My son loves the fountains, but hates the fountains that have all the popper in them. The noise is jarring for him and frightening. He finally got to watch some this year without freaking out too badly. He actually started getting excited for some that he liked when we had more than one of that type. But even as I do these standard, regular holiday activities, the memory of my dad is nagging at the back of my mind. And the harder I push it away, the stronger it is and the harder it is to push it away at all. I also tend to avoid social media the closer it gets, and on the day of, and immediately following, because of family members.
One of my sisters visited his grave marker on his birthday. She took pictures, and wrote a touching post about him and honestly I can’t fault her for that. He was her dad, too. And I’m genuinely glad that she can speak well of him. And that she celebrates his birthday on the 4th of July with joy and laughter and so much life. I want that for myself, but I know it’s a long road yet for me to work through all of this baggage and let it go.
I am optimistic. One day, I’ll be able to wake up on July 4th and not dread the day. Not dwell on my regrets and the might-have-been and maybe even share funny stories with my kid about his grandpa on his birthday (especially the funny birthday stories like the time we found out or next door neighbor was also born on the 4th of July!). One day I’ll face the day and not feel the need to hide in the kitchen and cook so I can hide any tears by cutting up an onion for burgers. But I’m taking it a year at a time. It’s all that I can do, really. In the meantime, I’m gonna make pies or Jello. Cook up some burgers and brats. Crack open a cold can of Pepsi (fuck you, I like Pepsi!) and watch my husband as he fails to blow himself up with the fireworks I bought at the actual fireworks store we have in town now.