The only thing he wanted was a gun.
He had other more pressing needs, of course,
but still, in his heart, he just wanted one.
Not for home defense or for show of force,
but just so that he didn’t feel unmanned.
Men owned guns, virility thus endorsed.
He was slow, that was true, but understand
that he was smart enough to feel the sting
when his desires were dismissed, out of hand.
So he wanted a gun, since that would bring
some sense of worth, when he felt sad or mean.
He wasn’t going to hurt anything.
(With a smile on his face, he sits and cleans
that rifle you gave him, until it gleams).
This is a terza rima sonnet that I wrote in 2004. It’s also based on a true story about my uncle, Daniel, who is, shall we say, cognitively disabled. Many years ago, my father bought Daniel a hunting rifle, so he could participate in turkey shoots, even though most folks would think that a gun was the last thing that a man of Daniel’s capabilities could and should have. But dignity comes in odd packages sometimes, and I’ve always admired my Dad for recognizing the symbolic importance of that gun, and giving a gift that meant so much to the recipient, other people’s opinions be damned. Daniel recently began dialysis for chronic kidney failure, so he’s having a tough spell this Christmas season. Here’s wishing him comfort and joy today and in the weeks to come. Likewise to you and yours. Merry Christmas!