I am now the proud owner of a big pile of guns.
As expected, my late father bequeathed his gun collection to me and my brother. And he owned a lot of guns. Colts, magnums, shotguns. Also knives and swords. And one crossbow.
Growing up as a kid, it seemed as though there were weapons everywhere--behind glass cases, hanging on the walls, locked in trunks. It took me a while to realize that this was actually a compromise: if my mother had her way, there wouldn’t have been any artillery within 50 miles of the house. My father had been respecting her wishes and holding himself back. Imagine what the house would have been like if he hadn’t been so constrained: instead of getting a car for my 18th birthday, I probably would have been offered a tank and a howitzer.
I mentioned my new possessions to the VP of Sales at my work. He said, “Are you planning on selling any?” I said, “Probably. Why, you need guns?” He said, “I won’t be satisfied until I have two guns for each windowsill.”
I never heard Dad use that phrase, but I think he would have liked the sentiment. For him, carrying weapons constituted a fundamental right, and he was often shocked to find out that people had serious problems with them.
One notable example of this occurred just over a year ago. Dad’s illness had already made it difficult for him to walk long distances, so he was in a wheelchair when we went to Disneyland for my niece’s fifth birthday. Trying to enter the park, he was stopped by an attendant who pointed at the gift-wrapped box resting on his lap. “You have to open that, sir,” the girl said.
“It’s a gift for my granddaughter,” he said. “I’m not opening it.”
“We have to see what’s inside.”
“Oh all right.” Disgusted, and acting reflexively, Dad reached into his pocket and whipped out a large Paul-Hogan-Style-This-is-a-Knife and started slicing through the wrapping paper.
The girl’s eyes opened wide as she registered the new threat. Suddenly, this harmless old man carrying a gift for his granddaughter had transformed into a potential terrorist. “Sir, you--you can’t take that into the park either.”
Naturally, more arguing ensued--to the point that Dad was shouting--but he eventually rolled away, to deposit the knife back in his hotel room. As he did so, he launched his final, devastating salvo at the hapless park attendant: “I’m writing this up on Yelp!”
Inexplicably, at age 69, my father had become an inveterate Yelp writer with hundreds of reviews to his credit. In the heat of his fury, he was convinced that a Yelp review detailing his unceremonious treatment would be the Force-guided missile that would detonate and destroy the Disneyland Death Star.
My brother and I will probably take months or longer to go through, catalog, and decide what to do with all the guns. But I was surprised when my brother said, “Why don’t you take the sword that was hanging in the den? I know you want it.”
I had forgotten mentioning it. But I did want it. It looks old--it’s chipped and battered. It’s not worth anything.
But that sword hung in the house where I grew up for as long as I can remember. As a child, I’d be playing video games or reading a book and sometimes I’d just look up and stare at it. I liked looking at it, running my gaze along its cracks and crevices, seeing how the silver metal was spotted with gray and black imperfections. I liked how it wasn’t straight but curved, like a half moon. I liked how it looked as though it had countless stories to tell. There may not be a single item that, in my mind, is more emblematic to me of growing up in that house.
I was glad to take it back to my place, and when I buy a few nails, I will hang it on my own wall. And I will sometimes stare at it. It will make me think of Dad, of course. But it will also tell me the exact same thing that it did when I was a child. It will tell me: You are home now. You are home. You are home.