My family's been running the 38 Specialties Weapons Store for generations. After World War II, my great-grandfather, Aloysius Candle, spent many days and nights working odd jobs in and around Biloxi and Gulfport. 38 Specialties opened its doors in 1947; the name comes from the caliber of his favorite service revolver. The old man never stopped bragging about it; he kept saying it was his good luck charm, like god was watching over him the whole time he was in Germany.

Great-grandpa Allie ran the store for twenty-two years. Debilitating health and scares would keep him away from his dearly beloved and he was forced to retire in 1969. He never recovered. He made his condition worse by trying to "help" his son run the store in the 1970s. Eventually, he had a fatal stroke in 1977. Aloysius was only 68 years old.

From the late 1960s to 1986, my grandfather, Humphrey, took the reins as owner of 38 Specialties, but didn't have an easy transition. Humphrey was an officer in the Marine Corps Reserve at the time. Within a month of Aloysius' retirement, his unit was deployed to South Vietnam. With him gone, my grandmother, Karla, had to pick up the slack, and this was part of the reason Aloysius wasn't so keen on enjoying his retirement. He couldn't trust a woman to run a gun store without mixing up the terminology or blowing her toes off, so these two didn't get along. Thankfully, Humphrey returned in 1972, right before Karla put the barrel of the shotgun to Allie's head.

Once Humphrey got to 38 Specialties as its new owner, there was a surge in sales purchases. And there's no question as to why; Humphrey kept leveraging his newly acquired rank and medals to his customers who in turn used it for gossip points around town, which was perfectly understandable. If I was a veteran and my son or daughter became a junior or field officer in the military, I'd be over the moon with joy. Over the course of his time as sole proprietor of 38 Specialties, Humphrey's ego inflated and the already-exaggerated war stories got even more cartoonish and silly. Humphrey didn't know it then, but he was lucky he didn't grow up during the Snake Oil Era.

Humphrey Candle hung up the apron and passed the baton over to my dad, Lancaster. From 1986 onwards, my dad would dedicate his adult life to the family business. He did most of his growing at 38 Specialties. Although he was unfit to serve, Lancaster knew enough about the military from grandpa and Old Allie. Dad got married to my mother, Josephine, had me and my sister Beatrix, he saw me graduate high school and carry on the tradition that passed him over. I joined the Navy in 2013. Growing up, I never got tired of hearing about my war hero great-grandfather, Humphrey the Clown or my dad, Lancaster the Salesman. I wanted my military service to further boost the store's reputation.

But after I finished military training, I discovered something that I actually liked a lot more. My unit deployed overseas and it was really fun seeing these foreign lands from a computer screen, or in my dad's case, books and brochures. I promised my dad that after I'm out of the Navy, I'd happily take over the family business. But now that I'm here -- an active duty sailor about to transition to reserve duty -- I was having second thoughts. I still wanted to venture out into the world, but I made a promise to my dad that I felt I had to honor. In 2016, I phoned home and let him know that I didn't want to inherit 38 Specialties. I didn't want to feel tied to Mississippi like my forefathers all were. Needless to say, my dad was quite upset.

At first, understandably he believed my obligations to the Navy held me back and he would've let Beatrix handle it until I came back. But when I clarified to him and mom that I won't be coming home following the end of my service, he felt betrayed. In a way, I felt guilty. This was the only time in my life where I broke a promise for personal reasons. Unlike military work, no one was ordering me to venture out into the world. I wanted to do that.

Ever since that call, I've been trying to get in contact with Dad. Last I heard, he and mom retired to Louisiana after reluctantly passing the baton over to Beatrix and her boyfriend, Orville. I didn't know what to make of this. I was happy that Beatrix found a partner, but I was disappointed in Lancaster for being so petty and in Josephine for letting this happen. I expected him to object or protest my decision, but I didn't expect him to put so much dirt between us. He never had a problem telling me things in-person, so what made this a special case? Many things. I wasn't the first service member in the family; I was the first one to leave and never come back. I was the first one to find a home away from home, and I suppose my dad thought that if I loved it away so much, then I might as well make it my home. To this day, we haven't spoken and my attempts to reach him don't go anywhere. I even thought about using my sister to get to him, but Lancaster must've thought ahead. He roped Beatrix and Orville into this by not even telling them where in Louisiana he is. But at least he talks to her on the phone. I managed to get her to call him, since he always picks up when she calls him.

When I answered the phone, it was just as ugly as the last time I called him. He always had the usual argument points loaded and ready: Aloysius broke his back to start this business; it's been in business for over 70 years; Humphrey took over in a time of darkness; this is my home. It was the same crap he'd been telling me ever since I told him what I really wanted. And as long as God is his witness, Lancaster Candle will never let me forget what I said and what I did, no matter how many times I try to forget.

I've been fighting this old man tooth and nail to at least speak to me in person, just one last time. But he's refused to back down. He has a brick wall and he won't let me pass. I guess, like Dad, I was also too stubborn to see the wall he's built with how merciless my attempts at talking to him have been. I haven't spoken to him since the last time I tried to reach him, and I probably never will. But if he's absolutely certain that the last time we talked is the last time we talked face to face, then he should've just told me to my face. He should've told me directly that he doesn't want to see me anymore -- not go straight to Louisiana without so much as a peep. He would've been more precise and I wouldn't have had to waste my time.

November 25, 2020 06:23

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