When your dad turned 80, you threw him a big party at the cabin he had built for you and your mom in the woods. We drove out there, first on the highway above the canopy of forest, and then ducking down into the ocean of tree trunks. Crickets were humming, the car windows were down. The thick humidity of the Ozarks in August made my back sweaty and my head hurt. 24 beers rattled around in the cooler we had packed.
At your dad’s party, people were playing banjos and signing old hymnals. Babies wandered between my legs, and I realized there were four generations of people at this place. By the patio, a bush looked like it was moving, but only because it was covered in daddy long legs. You took us up to your childhood room, a small doorless closet. In the bathroom, you had covered the walls with stickers. Stickers from bananas, cd packaging, vending machines. There was a picture of your mom sitting on the sink, taken when she was our age. She looked just like you. I thought about it for a while, I thought about pictures of me in the future.
I saw two people holding hands and looking at each other as they walked between the trees, and suddenly they were gone. When they came back, the girl asked if she could share my cigarette. I said no.
A large group of us hiked up a path your dad had cut into the forest, deep into the woods up a hill, to a clearing that opened in the darkness. Someone brought a huge bag of fireworks and a small bag of pot. We smoked the pot and all gathered sparklers, we shot bottle rockets and roman candles up into the sky. Your best friend drank one beer and threw up on her shoe. She passed out in the grass. Later she said that she was just tired. My friend said he could feel ticks on his legs, but I didn’t feel any ticks until later.
In the darkness of the woods that night, I felt close to my friends. I felt emotional, like I hand’t spent enough time with them, like I may never see them again. When the fireworks were gone, when the beers we had brought up in plastic bags were empty, we descended back to the party. People had started to leave, and those who couldn’t drive were resting in lawn chairs or on blankets in the grass. Your dad wandered by and started yelling “it was a hell of a party! Just a hell of a party!”, maybe at me, maybe at the woods, maybe at no one at all. As he walked into the shadows, muttering to himself, I realized something about your dad. On that night he was younger than me, somehow he was so much younger than me.