I'm not entirely sure about the specifics, but several tours in 'Nam, a lifelong passion for protecting freedom and a strong determination to do something with his life, left my Grandad old and in poor health. We lost him two nights ago, to complications from cancer.
In the short while I knew him, he really took to me, probably because of my independent spirit, general willingness to work hard, and desire to learn old ways. He was a man of few words and didn't really let people get into his head, so I can't say for sure why we got along so well.
He left me his Kabar. After several tours in 'Nam, then coming back stateside to work in a slaughterhouse, there is no telling how many interiors of men and cattle that knife has seen. He told me that the Special Forces "gave me a Kabar and a compass, said 'stay alive till we come back and get you', and kicked me out of the plane". Now that he is gone, I do not know whether I will put the knife in a case to look upon when I'm feeling defeated, or if I will keep it in my pocket as if a medallion that would imbue me with some sort of strength. Nevertheless, I will cherish it.
I was fortunate to harvest two deer this year with the black powder rifle he gave me for christmas last year. I sent him pictures of the doe and 8-point buck, and I'm sure the old man lit up for a minute with a smile. I'd bet the only thing he said in response was "good!" He was very reserved in speech. Although I can't say I enjoyed killing the deer, I find great satisfaction in knowing that he knew I was not just looking at the rifle on the shelf; that I was actually learning to use it, and actually did use it to procure food for my family.
He didn't talk much about his military career, being special forces and all, but one story that will always stick with me is the one about his 18th birthday. His father got him out of bed and said "come to the barn, I got you something for your birthday." He threw on his trousers and followed to the barn, where his father opened the door and there stood a full grown mule. His father said, "She's grown, but if you feed her right and take good care of her, she should give you many years of labor (I'm paraphrasing here)".
Grandad replied, "I need to borrow the keys to the truck!" He drove straight to town, to the Army Recruitment office and enlisted that very day.
So the old man did have a sense of humor!!
It is sad to lose such a remarkable man, but I find much solace in knowing he is now cancer free and no longer suffering in pain. I'm happy that I had a chance to honor his life before his passing. As much as it saddens me to lose him, I'm really glad I got the chance to know him.
In Loving Memory of Robert Luther.
Thank you for believing in me, Grandad!