Sunday, July 3, 2011

Independence Day Memories

It’s been 235 years since the United States of America declared its independence from Great Britain. Back then the founders were attempting to create something new in the world - a successful, long lasting, free Republic. And although our leaders have changed over the years and political philosophies have come and gone with them, in the long run we are still a successful, free Republic. It seems our founders had a pretty good idea what they were doing.

Independence Day brings a special memory for me. Initially it was a painful memory but these days it makes me smile. In the summer of 1995 I was living in Puerto Rico and my son was living in Oklahoma with his mom. He’d come down to visit 2 or 3 times a year but since his mom and I weren’t getting along at the time I never went to Oklahoma to see him. (At least, not at that time.) The Federal government has a policy in place that provides for employees stationed overseas (Puerto Rico is considered an overseas assignment) to go home on a paid vacation after being there for two years. Basically, you get five days of “Home Leave” (as it’s called) per year but you have to be there a minimum of two years before you can take it. Since I had been there for three, I took 10 days of paid vacation and came back to the States. I spent the first week in Miami and the second at my dad’s home in Ohio.

The best part about it was that any family member who moved to that overseas assignment with me was also eligible for the paid vacation as well. Since Christopher and his mom had moved there with me, even though she and I were divorced Christopher was allowed to come on the vacation with me, courtesy of Uncle Sam (and all of you, thank you very much.) The government flew him from Oklahoma City to Ohio and back and even gave us per diem money for food and hotels. I know most of you are thinking “What a sweet deal…” but… OK. No buts. It was a very sweet deal. But I spent four years in Puerto Rico and only took the vacation once so I didn’t feel too badly about it.

Anyway, Christopher got to Ohio on or about the 1st of July. We took a couple of days to travel around visiting family members and then returned to the Akron area for a big family picnic on Independence Day. July 4th, 1996, just happened to be the release date for the movie “Independence Day” and Christopher had been wanting to see it, as had I. He had just turned 12 in June and one of his surprise birthday presents turned out to be a matinee showing of “Independence Day” on Independence Day. What could be more appropriate? The movie was classic and Will Smith’s performance was excellent. And Christopher was happy. We had a great time and it was a win/win situation all the way around.

We went from the movie to the picnic then Christopher’s cousin Philip came with us to the hotel so they could visit some more and play in the pool. Then we watched movies until they both fell asleep. It was quite a day.

The first couple of years after Christopher’s accident Independence Day was difficult for me. But as the years went by and I learned to live with it, the memories of that weekend went from painful to happy. I’m even able to watch the movie again and laugh when thinking of Christopher’s reaction to certain parts. The good time we had comes flooding back and puts a smile on my face.

As we all celebrate Independence Day in our own way let’s remember why we celebrate it – the birth of this glorious nation. America is not perfect. There are things we could do better. But there are many things we do best. And, in my opinion, there is no better country than the U.S.A. and no better place on Earth to live. I’m sure there will be people who disagree with me but you know what? That’s your right as an American. And I support your right to be wrong….!

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