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Another July 4th: This year 'a different feeling'

July 6, 2009
by Kathleen Mears
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Most people think of the July 4th as a welcome break. They look forward to barbecues, swimming, boating, vacationing, and generally having a good time celebrating our nation's independence. As a child, our July 4th was usually spent at home. In the evening we went to an outdoor drive-in theater where fireworks were shown between shows. Always frightened by the noise, I cringed on the back seat's floor with my hands over my ears. We did not plan picnics since my father did not like fighting the insects for food. But many times my sister and I were lucky enough to be invited along by neighbors. As I grew older, I helped mom prepare chicken on our outdoor grill's rotisserie. I watched that grill turn and eagerly awaited our holiday meal when dad returned from golfing.

In later years with my parents older and my sister living in another state our July 4th was quieter. Mom and I watched Wimbledon tennis while waiting for dad to return from golf.

Needless to say, once my parents were gone, July 4th was forever changed. For a few years friends took me along to July 4th celebrations. I remember one year I got brave enough to watch the fireworks and felt warm ash fall on my face. I never got that close again.

For several years July 4th was just another day. I spent most of the day alone. But I did watch the evening TV celebrations switching between the Boston Pops and Washington, D.C.'s Mall. I could appreciate those fireworks and not have to deal with excessive noise or warm ash. Actually, I did not find it uncomfortable celebrating quietly, since I was doing what I wanted.

When I came to the nursing home, residents were encouraged to go out behind our facility and watch this small community's July 4th parade. For the first few years, I did not go since parade noise has bothered me since childhood. I did watch the parade for a couple of years here because it is less noisy than a city parade.

But I feel a different feeling here on July 4th than I have at any other place I have been during the holiday. There is little I can do here to make it special for me. I cannot suggest or create special food. Nor can I expect the facility to do uncommon things on a day when office staff and management are off. I do appreciate what the staff does do before and during the holiday to make it festive for us.

Now, the July 4th holiday fills me with a sense of concern. I wonder about aide staffing. We have aides on vacation, and I do not begrudge them time off. But sometimes our best aides, the ones who usually show up, are off on the holiday when we need them most. They try to staff the July 4th weekend well, but there are always call offs, which means the other aides work harder. With a parade in the morning, and fireworks at night, it is a very busy day.

Some of the residents enjoyed this July 4th as best they could. There were not many family members around. It is simply not like Christmas or Easter. A few residents went out for the day. But then again, it might have been the day after. For the most part, it was a day spent with those who care for us and serve as our substitute family. I am grateful for them.

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Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...