As a kid growing up in a New Jersey suburb, I had never been exposed to sports like hunting and skeet shooting, and I had never seen a gun, except on television. So when I settled in western Pennsylvania and decided to join a gun club, I might as well have been wearing a flashing neon sign that said, "Clueless."
Written by: Dr. Michael Weiss
Little did I know that, when I decided to take up this unlikely hobby, I would also gain an unlikely friend.
Mother - whose real name was Bob, though nobody called him that - treated me like an eager son, rather than another self-obsessed yuppie looking for something to do.
In his brusque but kind way, he taught me how to shoot and hunt. He told me which rifles, ammunition and gear to buy. And he freely shared with me secrets of the sport - you know, those little tricks and insights that one gains only from a lifetime of experience.
Mother was a patient, knowing and generous teacher. To my good fortune, he also became a patient, knowing and generous friend.
It was an odd friendship, and I’ve often wondered what made it grow, since Mother and I were different in so many ways.
I’m the kid from New Jersey who grew up to become a 40ish North Hills yuppie doctor. He was the 60ish bus driver from Emsworth who lost his ability to work after a couple of nasty accidents. I always complain about my mildly aching muscles. He rarely complained about his chronically aching back. I’m the guy who tries to watch his language in polite company. He was the guy who got his nickname from the unprintable adjective he used to describe everything.
I obsess about my health. He smoked for years.
In the end, it was the smoking that took my friend. Mother died in November, a little more than a year after being diagnosed with cancer.
In the months since he died, I can’t help but think of Mother whenever I lift my rifle to shoot a clay pigeon or listen to the twigs cracking under my boots as I walk through the woods. In these moments, I remember what made our friendship grow. It was the ability of two very different men to realize that they’re not so different after all.
Thanks, buddy, for that lesson and all the others. I miss you.
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