Friday, July 4, 2008

July 4th in Bethany

I have a love/hate relationship with Bethany. Crappy houses, curb-less streets, absentee landlords. Is it really necessary to put your cast-off Lazy-Boy recliner out to rot in the yard? Big trash day isn't for another three months. Twice this year guns have been drawn on my block. The first, our own version of Miami Vice, with three armed, drugged up freaks putting a bullet through the front door of the house to the east, narrowly missing my neighbor. The second performance by Bethany Police, complete with screeching tires, pulled guns from behind the sudo-safety of an open car door, and commands to "put your %$#@ hands in the air or I'll shoot". That was on behalf of our neighbor to the west, who, a few months after his wife passed away, invited a hellion of a woman home after an apparently brain-cell killing night at the bar. The woman thereafter refused to leave and has been making his life a living hell every since. The drawn guns were the result of a restraining order. It's about time the guy got some help!

But sometimes Bethany is sweet, with a small town homeyness. Today we walked the three blocks from our house to Route 66, past the horses waiting in the shade, to watch the 4th of July parade. We got there just as the parade was starting, but still found seats on the bleachers on the manicured lawn of the Nazarene Church.
In front of us, a little boy with a summer buzz cut insisted on playing in the dirt, despite his mama's warnings to stop. I think I heard them call him Clayton. He paid for his fun with a whack on the rear end and a reprimand from mama - "If your daddy was here, he'd smack your butt!" Clayton was wearing a shirt with a picture of his daddy in military uniform on the front, and his mama had hand lettered the back with "I (heart) U Dad" and "My daddy is defending our freedom"

So I asked him where his daddy was. Clayton couldn't tell me, but his mama said Iraq. Pretty soon Clayton's mama, who has left him with his grandma for a minute, brings her cell phone over and says to Clayton -"wanna talk to daddy?" Daddy was on the phone, calling from Iraq. Then she hands the phone to grandma. Somewhere between "Hi son" and "Good-bye", we heard her say "Funny how the Fourth of July has a whole new meaning for us this year!" (OK- I didn't go to the parade with kleenex!) They are excited because the soldiers are getting to watch a fireworks show tonight, and Oklahoma's own Toby Keith is there to play a concert. Some lady further down the bleachers hears part of the conversation and yells out "where's Toby Keith playing tonight?" all excited like she's gonna go there if she can. Clayton's mama says "Iraq". Sober silence. All the air just got sucked out of Bethany.

God bless Clayton, and his daddy and mama and grandma. God bless Bethany, and God Bless America!

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