Evan, you didn’t get to know your great grandpa—my Pop—but he was a great man in my eyes. Pop taught me, among many things, to hunt. There wasn’t a lot of talk about anything. He was a man of spare words, so in that regard (and in many others) we were pretty different. We didn’t talk about life, or football, or why I was deathly afraid to kiss my first girlfriend, LU. With Pop it was all about what was going on right then and there. In this case, the hunt—how to stalk, how to track a wounded buck until you found him, how not to let noisy thorn bushes scrape your jeans. How to walk ten slow steps, pause and look. And wait. And then to hunt until you got back to the truck, because if you stopped before you opened the truck door, that’s when a big one would jump and run.
Falling asleep—though it was 5:30 a.m. and still dark as a javelina den at midnight—was strictly forbidden and besides that, it was unprofessional. By the way, the rules changed a little over the years. When Pop was about my age now, we would take naps on the shady bank of the Nueces. Most things, including all sports and any curricular or extra curricular activities were to be approached in the same all-or-nothing, do-the-very-best-you-can professional attitude. But winning wasn’t everything to Pop by a long shot. In fact, doing your best while losing showed more character than an effortless victory. Pop didn’t talk it. He lived it, day-to-day.
But there was this one time, Evan, when Pop and I talked on a hunt. This poem is about my Pop and me, but it’s for you. Because what my Pop held in his hand on that hunt, I hold in mine. I held it for your mom. I held it for my boys, your Tio Niko and Giaccomo. And I hold it for you for the all the days ahead.
“Things to Come”You sat with me while hunting deerBeneath the big oak treeYou cupped a secret in your palmAnd wouldn’t let me see“You know what I have here?” you asked“A bug? An arrowhead?”You looked again and smiled a bitAnd “nope” was all you said.“I don’t know, Pop. Can I see now?’You held the secret nearYou nodded at the whisperingsI wanted so to hear.“I hold you in my hand, my son,I hold your dreams unbound.”Then with a wink, you showed to meThe secret small and round“Now here’s a forest in my palmA thousand trees I holdTen thousand promises to keepAnd stories yet untold.”“This mighty oak at riversideBegan smaller than youBut God has blessed and God has grownThis oak as He will you.”Now if you want to grow up tallAnd straight and strong and grandRemember that you started smallIn God our Father’s hand.