Summer in Michigan means parades are in season. Each small town and village has it’s own weekend festival complete with carnival rides, pageant queens with their courts, and parades. These festivals can be for a crop that is the main stay of the area such as mint or potatoes, or they can be a far stretch of the imagination of something to celebrate such as dandelions and red flannel underwear. It doesn’t matter what it is that’s being celebrated. We like to celebrate here and that means parades.

I don’t know what it is about parades but they make me cry. The tears start welling up as each brightly polished fire truck and ambulance slowly makes its way down main street. I try to blame it on the glare of the polish and the blare of the sirens but that really isn’t the case.

The stinging at the back of my throat really kicks in when the veterans walk by – each dressed in the best uniforms they can still fit in to. Some uniforms tight, others baggy but all worn with heads held high honoring the flag they each fought to protect. The sacrifice of these men and women humbles me to the core. The thought of those whose sacrifice was the ultimate one begins the first trickle down one cheek or the other.

High school marching bands always trigger a tightness in my chest. This year my youngest child will start his four years in marching band. It seems like only yesterday that I was in marching band with my orange and black flag, trying to avoid the trombones directly behind us. It’s been 10 years since my older sons were in marching band. I think it symbolizes to me the swiftness with which life progresses, the relentless assault of time marching us ever onward, father and farther from the past.

The final sandbag of self controlled resolve is breached by little ones daringly darting into the forbidden territory of ‘the road’, lured by the suspended rule of not picking up candy off the ground. How is it possible that my sons are all way too grown up for this act of bravery? It’s at this point that I invariably need to wipe the sunscreen out of my eyes because it must be the sunscreen that is causing them to drip uncontrollably. It couldn’t possibly be my overt sentimentality.

I pray this 4th of July weekend finds you happy, healthy, and enjoying life before the parade passes by.

Shelley Brandon

My bio is rather complex and like most people's starts at birth, or maybe before. I was adopted as an infant by very special and very loving parents. Pretty normal and average childhood with two younger brothers. Married at 22, motherhood at 25, divorced single parent at 29. Blessed at 31 with a new chance at love and the family I'd always wanted. Eight months later two of my sons lost their mother to pneumonia. Our blended family was tossed by the waves of grief from the beginning. The waves became a tsunami when my wonderful husband died 14 years later. Grief has been my shadow for nearly 20 years now, but life is still good when you're standing in the light.