Guns, Flowers and Father’s Day

My mom called this morning. That’s her featured in the video above. And no, her shooting technique isn’t as good as her mother’s. Mom mentioned that one of her friends attempted target shooting once. She seized up with fright and never even sent the first round downrange. The friend—a lady my mom’s age—kept saying, “I just couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t do it. I was way too nervous and too scared of that gun.” Mom analyzed her friend’s fear of guns thusly: “Well, she didn’t grow up around guns.” In stark contrast, guns were always a part of how my mom grew up. She credits her father—my grandfather–for her familiarity with firearms.

Like many members of “The Greatest Generation,” my granddad served in the military. Specifically, he landed on beaches in New Guinea firing a machine gun. He did his duty. He didn’t talk about it much. And for the rest of his life, he was a decidedly non-violent man who loved his family, loved his country, and yes, loved guns.

In his particular combat situation, a good offense wasn’t just his best defense; it was very nearly his only defense. Not firing his weapon made him a sitting duck. (Firing his weapon made him less of a sitting duck.)  Simply put, he staked his life on the reliability of the bullet-spraying machine placed in the sand in front of him.

It stands to reason that such exigencies would likely cause a human psyche to sail right passed “comfortability” with a certain object (in this case, a gun) and land squarely in the midst of “respect,” “admiration,” and even “love” for that object. This was obviously the case for my grandfather, and by subtle immersion, it became the case for the family he raised.

We lost my grandfather two days before Veteran’s Day in 2001. With Father’s Day two days away, my mom couldn’t help but mention him as our phone conversation drew to a close. She said:

One day, when I was little, maybe nine or ten, Daddy and I were walking in the woods behind our house and I saw a tall poplar tree.  Its branches were covered with beautiful, tulip-like blooms, and I told Daddy, ‘Those are so beautiful. I wish there was some way I could climb up and get one.’ When he heard that, he immediately went and got his .22 rifle and fired a single shot at a small limb. The limb came tumbling down and I had my flowers. I’ll never forget that.

We all learn and grow, and in the process we pick up opinions, attitudes, and beliefs different from those with which we were raised. But some things are so deeply ingrained that a basic level of acceptance of something permeates who we are, regardless of our changing views.

In the life of my family, I’m thankful for a patriarch who not only fought for his country, but who also instilled within his kids and grandkids a respect and comfort level with the basic hand tool that continually helps keep us free from enemies without and within.

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