Birthdays themselves aren’t all that special to me in and of themselves. I take great pleasure in celebrating the birthdays of those who are special to me, and I recognize (more often than not) the gift of each new day I’m able to wake up and go out into the world to create something new. So, between those two sentiments, when looking at my own birthday I see it as no more valuable than the immeasurable worth of any other brand new day I get to live life again. I also would rather be contributing to the celebrations of someone that I love more than myself, than taking time to allow myself to be adorned with greetings, gifts, and (occasionally) celebration.
When I woke up this morning I thought that I was at lease escaping the celebration part because 34 isn’t a landmark number. My wife had made me bacon and eggs with the bacon skillfully shaped into the number of my age as a nod to my current obsession with the Breaking Bad television show. No sooner had I begun enjoying my late breakfast then my children quickly followed up with a sugar cookie in the shape of a pistol, a card hand-made and decorated by each of them, and a box; unwrapped.
Like a kid who knew exactly what he was getting for Christmas, I knew what that box was, but in my new found 34 years of maturity, I patiently navigated their construction paper greeting cards and complemented the sugar cookie the oldest had accidentally broken prior to it’s presentation. They all hugged me, gave me a heart-felt “happy birthday Daddy,” and then stood and waited to see what was in the box they brought to me.
The box was a black molded plastic with two distinct red letters on it that I recognize anywhere, “HK.” That is for Heckler & Koch, one of the premier small arms manufacturers on the planet. One of the only major manufacturers around (if not the only) to never have a major recall. To those that know nothing about that world, I simply say they are the “BMW of guns.”
Last month we went on a date to watch the newest James Bond film. After an action-packed cinematic indulgence, we headed somewhere for some late night ice-cream and we started talking about guns. My wife started by casually mentioning how she loved the action sequences. I replied with some detailed nuances that appealed to me, and the conversation quickly moved to firearms. She lead with the question, “What kind of gun does James Bond carry?”
Of course I had to give a big long man-splainy sort of response about how initially Ian Fleming had the James Bond character carry a Beretta 418 in .25 ACP until his 5th novel “From Russia With Love,” Bond couldn’t get an adequate grip on his pistol and was injured because of it. He was then forced to switch to a Walther PPK in .32 ACP in Fleming’s 6th novel “Dr. No.”
I didn’t stop there, and my beautiful patient wife just sat and listened to me as I yacked on and on.
I went on to explain how in the late 90s when Pierce Brosnan landed the role of James bond he used a newer modern polymer framed Walther pistol chambered in 9mm called the P99, and I didn’t like the break with tradition. So, I excitedly explained how much I’ve always liked the PPK and how I appreciated the return of the James Bond character using the classic pistol when Daniel Craig assumed the role.
“So, if you could have one pistol for self defense would it be a Walther PPK?” she grinned and asked me.
“No,” I casually answered and nibbled at my waffle cone with multi-colored sprinkles on it.
“Why?” she asked.
I said, “If I had to choose a James Bond pistol for self defense, it would be a P99.”
“You just spent the last 15 minutes telling me how excited you were Bond was using a PPK!” she replied with obvious frustration at the apparent conundrum.
“I love that Bond is using a PPK, but it is too small for my hands. Besides, it doesn’t matter, because Walther doesn’t make anything that I would care to use as a concealed carry gun anyway. The company isn’t what it used to be, and just isn’t at the top of my list. Not even close in fact.”
Then she asked me, “Well what would you use for self defense? I mean if you could have one hand gun for concealed carry and to protect our family, what would you choose?”
“An HK P30,” I replied without hesitation. “I had one before I had to sell everything, I loved shooting it more than any other gun I owned, and I’ve always thought that if I ever started shooting again, that would be it.”
Four years previous a very prosperous time in our lives came to a screeching halt when a business partner completely screwed me over. Several lawsuits and a Federal investigation later (not involving me directly), we had found ourselves rebuilding our financial lives completely. That also involved a literal selling of everything that was not nailed down; including firearms.
There it was. Right in front of me, my bacon and eggs pushed aside. It takes a lot for me to just push bacon aside. I carefully opened the box and saw before me the only pistol that I really wanted. I removed it from the foam cut-out with care, removed the magazine, and made certain the chamber was clear. Then I stood up and aimed this $1000 pistol at a safe wall and dry-fired it. From the trigger break to the slide cycling, whole gun felt crisp and clean; it was new.
I had kept my head down for so long working my life away to recover from the damage inflicted on me and my family by a series of dishonest and unfortunate choices of trusted partners that I didn’t realize that things were ok. There I was holding a brand new pistol. I hadn’t even considered purchasing a gun of any kind. The last time I had held a gun was the last one I had sold to a private buyer when I was scraping resources together to stay afloat. I can’t describe what an extravagant luxury it felt like. Then I looked at my smiling wife and almost asked her “why” or “how” or something along those lines, and she just said, “I really feel like we need something in the house, and I wanted it to be something we would use. I wanted it to be something you would want to have.”
I didn’t even finish my bacon when an in-law came over (to watch the kids), and we headed to a nearby private indoor range to give the new pistol a try. It is an HK, so it will take a lot more than a few casual trips to the range to really break it in, but this would be a start. As I left to get my shoes on, my son handed me another present that was clearly a piece of clothing. It was a shirt. An HK shirt! Clearly, I was ready for the range. I mean, who wears gun-brand clothing anywhere else, right?
To be clear, this isn’t a post about getting a gun for my birthday. This feels different. Now, don’t get me wrong, what man wouldn’t feel extra special receiving a firearm from his wife for his birthday (or any other day for that matter)? But I didn’t even think about shooting yesterday. I didn’t think about shooting or guns or anything fun (for me) since 2008. This gift from my wife is a token of the real gift. The real gift is a permission slip. A reminder to give myself permission to recognize my own life and desires, now that what needed to be done has been taken care of.
I abhor men who put play and selfish desires ahead of their familial and marital responsibilities. I truly believe that measure of true manhood is quickly being lost in today’s world. However, I also believe that if time is not taken for one’s self, then one is less valuable in being who they need to be for those they care about and those whom they care for.
Update: It has been several hours since I wrote this post and I have spent a considerable amount of time browsing the internet planning my next firearm acquisition. I’m like a kid in a candy store. What did my wife do? This isn’t good. This is like giving an alcoholic his first drink. We may be in trouble. In fact it is technically no longer my birthday and I need to go to bed.