Happy Birthday to our first-born, Gunny. The one God gave us to “practice” on so that we could raise our second child, DD, to be “perfect.” That’s her story and she’s sticking to it. If you are very still and listen closely, I think you can probably hear them both laughing.
When Gunny was growing up:
— He had a good head for business at a very young age. Like the time I offered him a nickel for every dandelion he dug up in the strip of yard between the backyard fence and a farmers field. He just about bankrupted me! I finally had to make him come in wayyyy after dark to go to bed. Apparently he realized before I did what a great little money-making deal I had made him!
— He did lots of things that got him stitches. Not because he was clumsy, but because he did everything all out — no brakes need apply!
— He loved going camping with his dad in Grandma and Grandpa’s woods.
One time, Hubby cut his finger while preparing their meal over the campfire, so asked little Gunny to walk up the lane to the house and ask Grandma for a band-aid. Next thing Hubby knew here came Grandma, Grandpa and Gunny down the lane in Grandpa’s pick-up. He was surprised they hadn’t just given Gunny the band-aid, but he understood why his parents had decided they’d better check on him when they told him that when asked how badly his daddy was hurt, Gunny said he didn’t know because he couldn’t see the cut for all the blood!
When Gunny and Hubby would come home from one of these camping weekends, I remember them and all their equipment as absolutely covered with grime and smelling of smoke. But they always had big smiles on their faces — great memories for them both.
— He always loved math (which would make me wonder if he was adopted, if I hadn’t actually “been there” when he was born!). He told me just a few years ago that he loves doing math problems like I love doing Sudoku’s! Now that is just wrong — no one should see math as fun!
— As a teenager, Gunny made good grades and had friends who were good kids, but he had trouble “remembering” curfews. One time he was wayyyyy late getting home, but felt that he shouldn’t be grounded for it, because he had saved a man’s life!
The story goes, while driving past a K-Mart, (note: already well past his curfew) he saw a man lying in the parking lot so he pulled in and found that the man was only semi-concious, and was quickly being covered by the snow that had started to fall. It appeared the man had been badly beaten. He said he shook the man to rouse him and then helped him into his car and took him to a nearby all-night filling station to call the police.
His argument against being grounded was that him being late had probably saved the man’s life! There was just enough truth to that to make it hard for us to be too mad at him for being late. (DD always did say that HE was the one who should have gotten a law degree. This episode lends some weight to that idea. He had done a masterful job of “arguing his case.”)
Gunny was only 17 when he graduated from high school and he tried college, but he just didn’t know for sure what he wanted to study at the time, so about 6 months after he turned 18, he enlisted in the Marines.
The Marines were a good career choice for Gunny. He has been to almost every country in the world during the years he served on ships. Then, he spent many years as a Quality Control Inspector of shops that repaired helicopter parts, and then becoming a Gunnery Sergeant and supervising those same shops, staffed by crews of young Marines. And, in the Marines, your Gunny is similar to your Mama, only without the cookies and milk. He not only was expected to supervise their work hours, but also be their counselor in all areas of their lives. He would sometimes need to help them learn to keep a checkbook and just generally manage their money, and he sometimes was a marriage counselor for very young, very fragile marriages, made worse by frequent separations. He loved his job, and was very good at it.
Before Gunny retired from the Marines, he got his degree in business and math, the hard way — taking courses in between working full-time and raising his family with Dilly. One advantage to being an older student, he always said, was that he knew himself better than when he was younger and now knew exactly what courses and degree would fit his interests and aptitude, and best prepare him for his next “career.”
So, three years ago, he retired from the Marines at 38 years old. That made his mom and dad just a little grumpy, because WE hadn’t retired yet, so it just didn’t seem right that he got to go first!
On the home front, when Gunny was transferred from the west coast to the east coast (North Carolina) in the early 90’s, he met Dilly and they were married about a year later. They have three children — Sam who is 20, married to a young Marine, and mother to a darling baby boy; Nikki who is 14 and just starting high school; and Jay, who is starting 8th grade. They now live in Oklahoma because of Gunny’s new career as Director of Corporate Safety with a major roofing manufacturer.
So, there you have it — a few verbal “snapshots” from our son’s first 41 years.
Happy Birthday, Gunny. We love you. And may you have many more healthy, happy years, filled with more great memories.
Point of interest: You probably ought to think about putting your mom “in the home” when she puts candles on your cake that say “Birthday Happy!” Although, in her defense, this was last year, so maybe she’s gotten sharper since then.
Again, I hear the distinct sound of distant laughter.