Independence Day

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At Niagara Falls with my younger siblings. Little sis looked delighted to be there.

I didn’t drive until I was 19. Didn’t need to. If I needed to go somewhere, I walked, took a bus or hitchhiked. Seldom bothered my parents for a ride. I preferred the independence and adventure of getting around on my own.

Mom wasn’t keen on me hitchhiking. One day, Dad pulled me aside and gave me a bit of sage advice: “Don’t tell her.”

That served me well in life.

For the Independence Day holiday in 1969, dad took us to Niagara Falls — mom, two of my siblings and me. I was 17 at the time. While in Canada, we camped with a distant relative of my father and his family. They had a son my age. I didn’t have much in common with him; he wasn’t particularly bright.

Dad took us to see the falls. While we were walking around, marveling at the sights, I lagged behind. When it came time to head back to the campground, my father left me there, telling my mother I’d probably beat them back.

I nearly did. Caught a ride with a schoolteacher. I recall that we argued politics. Politely. She was Canadian, after all.

While sitting around the campfire that night, dad’s relative said, “I’d never leave my son behind like that.”

Dad looked across the campfire at the boy and responded, “Neither would I.”