Rockets for the Point.
The last time I vacationed alone with my sons we shot fireworks from a plastic soda bottle wrapped in tin foil. We were in Maine, at the same fishing camp we visited for twenty years. This was the same fishing camp where I vacationed with my family for most of my youth.
My sons and I ceremoniously carried the fireworks out to a place called “the Point,” a grassy neck of land that stuck out into the lake. On the Point you can see the Milky Way, and every night shooting stars traced brilliant lines across the sky.
This is the same Point where I would revel in the night. I stole beer from my father’s cooler and smuggled it to the Point: Colt 45 malt liquor in big, sweating cans. On the Point, we sucked warm, cheap wine from glass bottles, smoked weed and necked with girls. We passed out and threw up, and we couldn’t wait to do it again.
Then I grew up (sort of), and my sons and I went back to Maine every summer. My whole family also came, but things were different this year: my sons and I were alone. We were alone because my father had just died, and with him gone the rest of the family was finished with Maine.
Some men are born to be athletes. Others executives, doctors, carpenters or welders. My father was born to drive. His territory included upstate New York, and neither blizzard nor flood could keep him off the roads. My father took to driving like birds take to the sky: he didn’t need to even think about it, he just soared.
My father was living in Florida when his cancer came back. Seizures started to explode in his brain like hand grenades. I had to help my sister drive him home to Massachusetts. The same man who drove fifty thousand miles a year as a salesman for most of his life could no longer drive even a block. On the trip home, we stopped in North Carolina for the night. That’s where I bought the fireworks. They were all rockets.
Out on the Point, I sorted the fireworks so my sons had the same number of rockets each to launch. Most shot high into the sky, blossoming into red, blue and green clouds. Some shot out horizontally, skipping on the lake like flaming stones.
My sons ran back and forth to the shoreline, firing off rockets with wooden matches. They frantically celebrated the night, cheering the rockets that soared the highest, and laughing at the ones that never made it ten feet off the ground. It was one of the best nights of our collective lives.
At the end of their brief flight each rocket burst with a loud bang. I heard what they said in the dark, as they exploded over the lake and below the stars. “Dad!” They said it every, single time.