It was an old gun.
The man had bought the gun in 1967. He was a young lawyer, with a toddler and another on the way.
His wife was a schoolteacher, supporting their small family while he started a law practice. His father had been a cloth-cutter at a factory in Chicago, and worked long hours to support his family and pay for his son to go to law school. The older man had always believed in "give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day... teach a man to fish he'll eat for a lifetime" and wanted to do that for his son.
After graduating from law school the young man and his wife (they'd known each other since they were 15 & 14) felt like their future was elsewhere, and moved west. They left behind the only family they had and only place they'd ever lived. Most would follow them in a few years.
The man was 25 when his only son was born. A month later the man's father died at 66. It devastated him, and took him a year to recover. He was an only child and returned to Chicago to close things out, and his mother decided to move West to join the young family.
One day, after he'd won a divorce case, the lady's ex-husband threatened to kill him. Since the ex had a history of violence, the lawyer bought a small handgun and some ammo. He hoped to never use it, but also wanted to be able to protect his family. It wasn't even much of a gun. Just a .22 pistol, the closest thing to a pop gun among actual firearms.
The threat never materialized. The ex moved away, and the lawyer hid the gun in an old suitcase in his closet and forgot about it.
The man's law practice grew, and he became a successful attorney. He found his niche in life, and was good at it. He loved his work, but was also devoted to his family. As his kids grew he took time off whenever he could to do things with them. One day he and his wife called them in sick to school, so they could take them to the zoo instead. The family traveled to Hawaii. Up and down throughout western America. Europe. Mexico. Canada. Disneyland. The beach. River trips. National parks. Hawaii. Alaska. Nothing incredibly exotic, but fun. While not wealthy, they were comfortable. He worked very hard.
On a 1979 trip to Mexico City, his son remembers watching an old beggar shuffling down the street holding a bucket in one hand and shaking maracas in the other. He had no teeth, and both eye sockets were empty. The man watched the beggar, then walked over and put a handful of coins in the bucket. The beggar silently made the sign of the cross.
In a city full of people asking for money, this was the only time the man ever did that, and he told his son that some people truly needed help, and that was one of them. The boy never forgot that.
The boy grew up remembering hearing his dad get up early, like 4-5 in the morning. He'd listen to him get dressed, then the loud clumping of dress shoes going down the tiled hall to the garage, then the door lock, and his car drive away. Sometimes, if his son was awake during the summer, the man took him to work with him. He put his son in charge of making photocopies for his office when he was there. The boy loved this. Made him feel important. Sometimes, if he heard the man getting ready, the boy would cough loudly to show that he was up, hoping to get taken to the office on a school day... but it didn't work that way.
On rare occasions the kids got to go see their Dad in court. It was cool, watching him examine and cross-examine people. They could see why he was so highly regarded in local circles.
Life, as it will, goes on. The kids grew. One year, while poking around, the son as a teenager found the old gun. He quietly left it alone, locked in the suitcase. Once, during a teenage depression, he thought about it again, but never went back to see it. It was soon forgotten again.
As his kids grew the man took them on special trips. His son to Washington D.C., the girl to watch her favorite football team play in Los Angeles. He took them both Las Vegas, where he played (and won) tournament blackjack, and taught both kids to play, too. His son became a car geek for a few years. One morning, just to let the teenage boy look up close at a Lamborghini Countach that was on display, the man pretended to be interested in buying a Mercedes at a dealership.
The man and his wife aged well. He made it through a heart attack and his wife survived breast cancer. Together they traveled to Australia, Japan, Europe, Israel, Hong Kong... Places that when they were young they'd only dreamed of someday being able to see. Hard work and life had been good to this family.
Like kids do, they left the nest. The boy had always dreamed of being a doctor, and the man helped him get there. Tuition in the 1980's wasn't what it is today, but it wasn't cheap. The man, like his father, believed that you should do your best to support your kids' education so they could support themselves. His son came out of medical school with far less debt than he normally would have, and was able to start a practice and his own family. The man's daughter, to her surprise, discovered that being a mom was all she'd ever wanted, and so did that full time with her own kids.
The man and his wife saw time go by. Age brings both the good and bad, but for them it was still good. Love, 5 grandchildren, and their 50th anniversary. They celebrated the last in the company of family and many friends, most of whom had been at their 25th anniversary, too. We all have to get old, but doing so in the presence of good friends helps. Life has tragedy, comedy, and love, and it's good to have others to share them with.
A few months later the man became depressed, and it gradually worsened. There was no real reason for him to be depressed - he had everything anyone could possibly want - but he did. He went to his regular doctor, then to a psychiatrist, and they both tried hard to help him.
Depression is REAL. And it hurts. The world is full of people who don't believe in it and deny that it's an illness. I encounter them in my practice and on trips to visit in-laws. One loves to use the phrase "people just need to put on their big-boy pants," as if her simplistic insight would magically solve everything.
I see politicians and insurance executives on the news claiming mental health doesn't need to be covered because it's not a "real" disease. In a world where fortunes are spent on breakthroughs for rare diseases a more common one - depression - takes a back seat because it's not a "real" disease. The most common treatment given is to tell people to suck it up and deal with it. And, speaking from personal experience, that only makes it worse.
The attitude of many toward mental illness today is not better than 200-300 years ago, when its victims were chained up in dungeons and forgotten.
But the man, fortunately, had good insurance. He was able to see a psychiatrist, and afford medications. And he tried hard. He really wanted to get better. He took them as directed, trying one after another, living with side effects. His family tried hard to support him. Calling him often, visiting when he was willing to see them, and telling him how much they loved him. But none of it seemed to help.
Then, one day when his wife had gone out to the store to get some things, he remembered the old gun.
Dad, I miss you so much.