Growing up, my grandpa was the kind of grandpa that would encourage me to pick up a baby chick, knowing very well the mother hen would chase me across the yard. He was the kind of grandpa that would have me touch an electric fence, just so I knew it wasn’t a joke. But laugh at me losing my mind lighting the kinds of fireworks you can’t buy anymore. A real, ‘Well, he won’t do it again’ mentality to grandparenting. I always welcomed the distant adventures that I had during vacations to the pacific northwest. To me, he was a tough man with a black licorice addiction. At a young age, he proved to me it was not black licorice. And I haven’t touched chewing tobacco since. Or black licorice.
A day I will never forget will be the day before my wedding. My brothers and I went shooting with our Grandpa Sager. I was excited to spend the time shooting and sharing in our common appreciation for all things military. I was shooting in the lane furthest to the left, while grandpa was on the complete opposite side of the shooting range. Shooting his gun. A lot. Then all of a sudden a man on the intercom is yelling … “NO RAPID FIRE!” … “DO NOT UNLOAD YOUR CLIP, SIR!” … “NO RAPID FIRE!”. I could not contain my laughter and to this day I think he was oblivious to the entire thing. Later as I was shooting, Grandpa Sager walked over to my lane and told me that, “When you are done shooting that peashooter, come shoot a real gun”. When I walked over to his lane, he handed me his gun and it nearly fell to the floor it was so heavy. I had instant gun envy. And yes, I had been shooting a peashooter. I found the strength to hold and aim the gun. I took one shot and everyone stopped what they were doing to squint at the target I just shot with the manliest, heaviest, hardest, and loudest gun I had ever seen. I shot a perfect bullseye! Then turned to my proud Marine Grandpa Sager and told him that ‘THAT is how the Army does it!’ He smiled ear to ear.
My grandpa loved the Marines. Recently, we were able to spend some time sharing each other’s stories of our time in the military. The reverence he had for those who serve and served our country was humbling. He cried. I cried. Maybe it was the Southern Comfort we were drinking, or maybe it was our willingness to open up to each other after what seems a fabricated distance. Sitting there with my grandpa Sager, I was able to share stories of new baby chicks with upset hens and the many electric fences that we all keep touching.
But being a Sager hasn’t been easy for me, with our many trials and error. I have wanted and tried to take Grandpa Sager’s place multiple times over. But my grandpa helped save my life. He validated my ability to find my feet. He helped me purge negative darkness from clouding my potential. He believed in me enough that I was able to start believing in myself again. And because of my Grandpa Sager, I get to show my world and my kids what it means to be a Sager. To honor those who are honorable and show compassion to those who fall short. To be an example of what a man can do and will do when given the breath. Grandpa showed a foundation that could be built upon when unknown paths are taken. And I, for one, am going to walk this path proudly.
Thank you, Grandpa. Rest peacefully. Thank you for helping me see what it truly means to be your grandson. Cheers!