I used to go hunting with my grandfather when I was a kid. We'd go on the weekends almost every weekend; it was the highlight of my weeks. We would go to this reservation a few minutes from his house and it was like an adventure—it was so exciting, having to be quiet and getting to carry a gun. When I became a teenager, we would share a few beers while we were out and he'd always tell me, “Don't tell you're parents I'm giving you this.”
It was pretty much the only time we'd ever spend together; going out hunting, drinking, goofing off. I loved it more than anything and I could see in his eyes that he enjoyed it too. I killed my first buck, cooked my first squirrel, shot my first turkey, and my first duck with my grandpa and he was always so proud of me when I'd get one. I was thirteen when I shot my first buck, a little four-pointer absolutely nothing to brag about, but you couldn't tell me or my grandfather that. We came back to his house, where my parents and siblings were waiting and I just strutted up to the door with my chest puffed out and quietly, with a smug look on my face, pointed to the back of the truck where my prize was sitting. That was the best deer meat I had ever eaten.
As things go, I got older and the trips started spreading out more; some of it was my life catching up to me and some of it was my grandfather being less able to keep up and go out as much. We still enjoyed a good hunt together, but it became an annual thing, no more once a week or once a month trips for us. It was still just as much fun as it had ever been, and I still looked forward to it every year, counting down the days until our hunt together.
One year, I was twenty-five at the time, he called me up and asked if I was gonna make it to the hunt this year, but I told him I was just too busy this time; I'd have to get a rain check. Truth is, I was going out with friends to bars and clubs to pick up chicks and get wasted; we were gonna have so much fun out that night and we'd get so much pussy it would hurt. Found out the next day that my grandpa had an accident while he was out hunting. He was trying to climb one of the fences out there and half-way up had a heart attack and fell to the ground. He died alone out there because I wasn't with him.
I never forgave myself for that. If I had been out there maybe I could have helped him and saved his life, maybe it never would have happened if I'd gone with him, he wouldn't have had to exert himself carrying all the stuff and he would have had my help climbing the fence. There are so many maybes, but it's my fault he died and I have never been able to forgive myself for that.