Dear Dad.

17 Jun 2024

Everyone has issues with some member of their family at some point in their lives. It is not an ideal situation for anyone, and it takes more away from you than the situation itself is worth. Some of us have the foresight to see the issue and are able to address them before it gets worse. Then there are others who let past situations define their future with their loved ones and it ends in regret and sadness. This Father’s Day has come and gone, and this is the first Father’s Day I have had without a father. It’s also the first Father’s Day that I have thought of others who do not have a father and the struggles that they have. There are a lot of people in the world who are missing out on the knowledge and wisdom passed down from father to son. This article is from me to you as a gift for this year’s Father’s Day. I will share with you what I was taught as a child and how it helped shape me into the man I am today.

“You only have one shot, and you better make it count”.

One of our family traditions is hunting. I am one of kids that went to grandma’s house with the living room full of deer head trophies. I am sure there are a lot of you out there that have the same family decorations. Most of them belonged to my grandfather. He was a WWI veteran and an expert marksman. Every time he picked up a firearm, I would stop whatever I was doing and watch in amazement. I was a kid and really didn’t know much about firearms, but I knew I wanted to be just like him.

The day came that I got my “shot”. I was a teenager and was able to participate in hunting for the first time. My grandfather bought me a single shot 12 gauge to practice with and eventually hunt with. I just had to get my grandfather’s approval after proving I was going to be safe. This was also followed by going to a firearms course and getting a permit. This involved many days of target practice and black and blue shoulder pain. After finishing my class and getting my permit, my grandfather agreed to take me hunting with him in the morning. This was a big moment for me as a kid and as an adult now. I loved my grandfather and him inviting me to something was an amazing feeling.

Morning came and my grandmother woke me up. I put on all my clothes and my boots. I went into the kitchen and my grandpa was sitting at the table dressed and ready. We sat for a few minutes, but he didn’t waste any time and we got ready to head out for our first hunt. We rode into the darkness of morning till we reached the tree stand. My grandfather wanted me to have his tree stand for my first hunt. His tree stand was considered to be the “Cadillac” to my family members. He watched me climb up the tree stand and get settled in. He gave me a Snickers bar if I got hungry and he gave me one bullet. I asked him if I needed more because one didn’t seem like enough. He replied, “You only need one bullet, and you better make it count”.

Needless to say, I hunted for 4 years and never killed anything. I just wasn’t good at it and really didn’t like sitting in the woods when I could have been doing exciting things. The one bullet speech never left my mind. I used it later in my life when it came to jobs, life and opportunities. The jest of it is, if something great happens in your life, go for it and don’t look back. “You only have one shot, and you better make it count”.

“Return it better than when you borrowed it”.

I followed my grandpa everywhere he went. He owned a 91-acre farm that was passed down from the Great Depression. It was a small farm that consisted of cows, pigs, ducks, geese, rabbits and dogs. It kept him very busy, and he loved and lived the family farm. The day came that my grandpa let me work with him in his workshop. His workshop was full of all kind’s tools and retro memorabilia from the 40’s and on. He had an old metal fridge that was full of nuts and bolts and other items. He had a wood stove that would keep the place warm when the winters came. It was a sacred place to the family and being invited in was a blessing to anyone he asked.

He was working on something that had broken and asked me to help. I was really excited and couldn’t wait to get started. I also did not have a clue what I was doing. He showed me all the tools and what was going to be needed to fix what was broken. I watched with amazement of every turn of a wrench and every move my grandpa would make. I also didn’t repeat any word he ever said in the shop. When we finished, he asked me to put back all the tools. He didn’t tell me where they go because he wanted me to become familiar with what tools look like and what they go with.

As I placed a wrench on a shelf, he stopped me. He said, “Do you see how this wrench looks?”. I said yes, its dirty. He says, “Anytime you borrow something, return it better than when you borrowed it”. He then cleans the wrench and places it back on the shelf. He was never mean or upset when it came to lessons, and I was always wanting to learn more.

Recently, a neighbor told me to borrow his zero-turn mower when it came to mowing my yard. He wanted to help me from roasting in the sun when it came time to mow. I own a lot and a half and have two children. An hour outside while my wife is watching kids can be a very long time for a person. Especially when one of them is Autistic. 😂

I took him up on his offer and mowed my yard in under 40 minutes. It made my life so much easier, and I was very thankful for him. Once I was done with the yard, I washed and dried the mower and returned it. My neighbor was shocked that I took the time to wash his mower. I replied that my grandfather taught me “Return it better than when you borrowed it”. I have never forgot this important lesson and always try to practice it when I can. When life brings you situations like this, always apply it and it will be returned to you in full.

“Talk is cheap, whiskey costs money”.

When I was a teenager, I was able to keep up with my grandpa. I was able to farm with him as well as walks, gardening, shooting and anything he wanted. Things were getting fun for me because he always saw me as an equal. Every once and a while, I would challenge him to a shooting contest with an old Coke can. Just like they did in the old John Wayne movies…without coke. He loved John Wayne films and anything cowboy.

I placed the coke can on a post and walked away. I said you only get one shot to knock the can off the post and you win. We took a few paces back and got ready. I said I was going to win, and I was going to brag about it all day. He said, “Talk is cheap, whiskey costs money”. I didn’t know what that meant at the time. I was the first to shoot and missed. When it came to grandpas turn, it took one shot, and it was over.

In life you are going to be faced with many decisions that will challenge you. Be ready to stand by your word and try your best. A man is only as good as his word. Even if you fail at trying, you at least have to show up and try.

I hope that these brief memories help and guide you this Father’s Day. Know that you are loved and are needed and people like you. Always love your family through everything. Be the person that is there no matter what happens in life and pay attention to the lessons taught. You never know when your last lesson will be.

All the best.