‘Bernie, do you sometimes feeling lonely on holidays … you know, like the Fourth of July?” Pastor Walter Mitty missed being with Herman and Susan and the kids. It had been one of those events he thought he could count on.
“Sometimes.” Bernie had been divorced for only two years. “Sometimes I feel this great rush of freedom, like it’s such a relief to be not be under my ex-wife’s rule. You know, her way or the highway. When I closed on my condo here in Poplar Park last year, it was like my own little independence day.” Bernie closed his eyes and sighed.
“And at other times?” Mitty was pretty sure what his new friend was going to say.
“And at other times, sure, I miss being connected.” Bernie smiled as he segued. “You know, I really have to thank you for calling me up and suggesting we go to the fireworks together. It’s good to know I don’t have to be lonely even though I’m living alone.” Bernie got lost in his own thoughts for a minute and then added, “You know, I was surprised to hear that you were going to be here in town instead of in Manitowoc.”
“So am I,” was the way the pastor of Poplar Park Community Church chose to reply. “I was planning on spending the weekend with Herman’s family. Had a substitute preacher lined up and everything. And then a week ago, my brother called to say a family crisis had come up.”
“I don’t think so.” Mitty chuckled. “In one way it’s kind of funny. See, Brian is Herman and Susan’s oldest boy. The way my brother told the story, he and Susan had forbidden Brian to talk on his cell phone while he was driving. You know how teenagers are … think their parents are the most unreasonable, tyrannical authorities in the world. What Brian did was to try to text message his girlfriend while driving.” Pastor Walt shook his head and chuckled again. “Brian wasn’t paying attention and, sure enough, he rear-ended a guy who was waiting for the traffic light to turn. So Herman thought that calling off our weekend together would be kind of a punishment, since Brian and I are pretty close.”
“That sounds serious.”
“The reason I think it’s funny, Bernie, is because no one was hurt and there was only a few hundred dollars in damage. But more than that, it’s funny to me, because that’s the kind of thing Herman and I did when we were Brian’s age. We thought we knew better than our parents. Couldn’t wait to be on our own and independent.”
“Were your mother and father good parents?”
“Sometimes they were, and sometimes they weren’t. You know how it is, Bernie. They did the best they could. My point is that now Herman and I find ourselves trying to recreate the same experiences we thought were so lame when we were Brian’s age. After hitting a few walls, we figured out that independence isn’t as great as we thought it would be. Herman and I are lucky we didn’t walk into something really devastating before we figured that out.”
“You got me thinking, Walt,” said the owner of History/Herstory. “I’m reading a book that argues that what we often call the Revolutionary War wasn’t a revolution at all. Nothing much changed. Like a bunch of adolescents, the Americans got tired of living under Great Britain’s authority. They talked about taxation without representation, but was that worth killing people for? I mean, Canada and Australia didn’t need a war to find their own identities, and they seem to have turned as good as our country.”
“As you were talking, Bernie, I got to thinking that you’re not only right about what happened in George Washington’s time, but that’s part of what got us into trouble in Iraq.” Pastor Walt finished setting up the two lawn chairs he brought from home. “Thinking we knew all the answers, didn’t need to wait for a consensus, thinking we could do it all on our own.”
As the sun disappeared behind the Poplar Park Mall, Bernie said, “I suppose it depends on how bad the authority is. Like, Brian should have listened to your brother, but when parents are abusive, then I guess it’s good to assert your independence.”
“Maybe that’s what we have to figure out with Mayor Romano right now.”
“Say more,” urged Bernie.
“Well, he wants to use eminent domain to raze those three residences to clear the way for the new YMCA he wants so badly to locate here. Is he abusing his authority or making a reasonable …”
Bernie interrupted his friend, “I think the fireworks are about to begin.”