Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Long Holiday Weekend...Freedom!

Tomorrow begins a long holiday weekend. If it doesn't rain too much, I, like millions of other people, will be at a family cookout. The biggest event of the weekend, however, is not the cookout. The biggest event is on Sunday. Sunday is Chloe's birthday. She will be four years old. I cannot remember time before Chloe entered the world. She is growing up so fast. Chloe has changed my life. Her birth was one of my life's significant events. Chloe was the inspiration for me to begin writing my daily thoughts. The first thoughts that I ever sent out were about her. In my eyes, Chloe is perfect and the center of the universe but I am speaking as her Pa Paw. Of course, she is also a real child and occasionally acts like one. I don't care. I will love her no matter how she acts. She and I have a mutual admiration society. She adores me and I adore her. Being her Pa Paw is the highlight of my life. With all due respect to my own children, it's a lot more fun being a grandfather. Chloe is the sweetest and most loving person I know. She thinks I'm a very funny guy and maybe a little crazy. If I am in the room, everyone else gets ignored. I love her child's sense of wonder and I try to encourage it whenever I can. I am more patient with her than I may have been with my own children. Plus, she's special because I never had a daughter. I assume that sometime over the weekend she will want to climb on me and stand on my head. By the time she goes home I will be exhausted. She will wear me out!

Tomorrow is the 4th of July. On this day Americans celebrate their independence. This year it will be 232 years since we won our independence from the British in 1776. Today they are our best friends. Unlike many people in the world all I have ever known is freedom. I try not to take it for granted. Every night when I watch the daily news and I see all the war and famine and tyranny in the world, I am grateful for my freedom. I am grateful for the freedom to live where I want, work where I want, worship where I want, associate with whom I want, and think as I please. Freedom, however, is not free. Many have paid the price for the freedom we enjoy. It is easy to understand why so many people want to be part of our country. Although it is still more difficult for some than others, I believe anyone can be whatever they want in this country. It pleases me to see people of every race, gender, ethic background, and religion, able to succeed and pursue happiness. Life is still not always fair but the freedom we enjoy is the best game in town. Think about this tomorrow as your grill you hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs and chicken, and drink your ice cold beer with your family and friends.

I share the following story again. It seems a little more meaningful now with the references to gas and concert ticket prices from the past. I wish I still had this car!

It is difficult for me to think of the 4th of July without remembering the largest concert event of my life. On a 4th of July weekend in 1970, my friends and I piled into my non air-conditioned 1962 Volkswagen Beetle and headed for a city called Bryon, Georgia, deep in the South, during an extreme heat wave. Approximately 500,000 other young people from all over the place did the same thing. We were free if only for a weekend. For a few days we escaped the tyranny of parents, schools, employers, and the draft. We were surrounded by our peers, people who probably had more hair than sense, but for a few days anything went and the best music of the day played endlessly. I think gasoline was approximately twenty cents a gallon. I could fill my car up for about $2.50 and got thirty or forty miles a gallon. This festival, with some of the biggest acts of the day like Jimi Hendrix, The Allman Brothers Band, Procol Harum, The Chambers Brothers, Mountain, and others, cost $18 for all three days! At this time of my life I had no idea what was ahead of me and what the coming years would bring. Today I have a lot less hair, a little more sense, but still a deep love of music and life. At age 57 I now have certain minimal comfort expectations and requirements. There's no more sleeping in a field or the back seat of a Volkswagen. Today I would require a fully equipped Winnebago even if I couldn't afford to drive it! Since that time, life and freedom have been good to me. Some of the people who were with me on that hot July weekend are still part of my life and I am grateful for their friendship. We thought we were born to be wild. Now we just hope to keep our cholesterol in check. Dude, don't bogart the Lipitor!

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