By John Mauer
To say that my father and I aren’t close is like saying that RF and Diane Feinstein have a difference of opinion on matters of constitutionality. Divorced when I was three, my parents lived on opposite sides of the state. With my mother having primary custody, visits were limited to weekends, some holidays, and scattered special occasions. Asymptotically these visits became less frequent, replaced by even more intermittent phone calls, mailed gifts, and other detached well wishes. By the time I was nine it was more on the scale of once or twice a year, with the final recorded visit at age twelve when I was gravely ill.
In my formative years I was fortunate to have great influences on building my own character and constitution. My mother and step-father were encouraging when it came to guns and ownership, buying me my first rifle at thirteen. My best friend’s father took me under his wing as an ardent supporter of the Second Amendment and curator of an impressive personal collection of historical firearms. I was able to grow up learning about the value of a gun both on a personal and national level.
I am especially thankful because all of this happened in the state of New York. I’m an upstater, which has a strong influence on the more pervasive views towards guns that I experienced in my childhood. Had I grown up in Chicagoland, Kalifornia or *shudder* NYC, I imagine that my experience could have been substantially different. Instead I am a proudly active CCW licensee (don’t get me started on that process) and have a small but important collection of my own long guns and pistols.
As I became a father myself in the last several years, I began to wonder about my own father and his lot in life. At the time of the birth of my son, we hadn’t spoken in nearly sixteen years. I was never close with his extended family and never had a solid lead on what had become of him. After extensive Google-Fu and with the help of a private investigator I found he was living in the same area where I was born, but was still unable to find a good number by which I could contact him. Emboldened with a lead, I decided to take the plunge and make the three hour journey to try to find the man in the flesh.
To say I was nervous would be the second great understatement of this story. Most of the time when you haven’t seen someone for the better part of two decades it’s for a good reason. After all, who doesn’t reach out to their son in the least? What would he say or do if I did find him?
I arrived at his house finding myself barely able to make the walk up the front steps to knock on the door. When the door opened I saw a much older, bearded, balding mirror image of myself. The two of us could have been knocked over with a feather. After a handshake that made me feel like a cold call vacuum salesman, I was invited in and we sat in the living room.
As you can imagine, conversation was difficult at best. There were the perfunctory topics like work and family, more of a listing of resume items than anything else. When it was his turn he told ten seconds to outline his life in retirement and then started talking about his golf game. His. Golf. Game.
I thought right then and there I had my answer. This guy is a dick. I’m trying to reconnect after a huge amount of time, bring pictures of the grandson he’s never seen, and all he can talk about is golf. Shame on me, I expected too much.
To my surprise he asked if I wanted to take a ride around town and see what his life is like. Having gone all that way, I figured there was nothing else to lose. If anything, it would solidify my resolve to keep my distance and write this part of my life off.
As we reached his truck I noticed that he had not one but two NRA life member stickers on his windows. I hopped in and we started driving. He pointed out the various sights of town—the college, favorite diner, the place where he himself went to high school. More of the same resume talk.
Things changed though, when we passed by the closed Air Force base. He casually mentioned that he was there the other week for a SAFE Act protest, and turned to me and said “Fucking Cuomo, huh?” With that remark and in that moment the conversation turned. We started to talk about the unconstitutional and downright dastardly way that the SAFE Act was passed, about infringements on basic liberties and rights. We started to talk about his work in advocacy efforts and what we can do as citizens of the state to protect what is rightfully ours.
Suddenly, we weren’t just two strangers feeling each other out delivering curricula vitae through an interview. We had something in common, something basic and core to each of our persons. We talked about guns and rights for the rest of the ride, nearly an hour.
When we got back to his house he felt comfortable enough to show me the LCP he uses as an EDC. I wish I could describe the pride I saw in his eyes when I reciprocated and presented the Glock 26 that I had IWB the entire time. I think it’s best described as a simultaneous joy to find a kindred spirit and relief that that spirit is his son.
We were able to then break down barriers. We had an honest, good and long talk about what had led to the distance between us and the break in communications. Hearing the other side of the story, Kramer vs. Kramer seems like a simple mediation (something I was able to corroborate after). We talked about guilt and heartache and I extended sorely needed forgiveness for what transpired.
We’ve subsequently had several more meetings. He has been able to meet my wife and son and we’ve been able to talk on the phone with some frequency. I think often about how fateful the decision was to hop in the truck and go for a ride.
More importantly though, I think about the power that our fundamental rights have as a means to connect us all. I firmly believe that deep inside of every citizen lies a desire to be free and to protect ourselves and our loved ones in ways that WE see fit. And in this case I think about the LCP that my father showed me that bridged the divide between strangers talking about golf and let me meet and connect with my father.