Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Playing Army

Kids these days are always bored, and my 5-year-old boy is no exception. Over the weekend he said he was “tired of the games we usually play” and that he “wanted more action.”

I suggested we play Army.

My younger brother and I used to love playing Army with our friends when we were kids. We’d pick sides, then go down to the creek -- our war ground -- and we’d battle it out to be the last man standing in a full scale war like the ones we frequently watched on TV.

So when my son said he wanted more action, I took him to some nearby fields and we set up to play Army.

Aside from always being bored, kids these days have no patience. My son is no exception. Setting up to play Army is a lengthy process. My son had no patience for that kind of length.

“Come on, Dad,” my son bellyached. “I want action.”

“And action you’ll get if you’re patient,” I said as I dug foxholes into the ground.

“I’m having patience, but I just wanna play,” the boy said.

While my son was impatiently being patient, I finished the foxholes and then moved on to build a holding area where the medic could help wounded soldiers.

In case I forgot, my boy reminded me that he wanted action. I told him to relax -- again. Then I told him we had to have a place for patients.

“But I have patience, Dad,” he said.

“Not patience,” I replied. “Patients -- wounded soldiers.” My son let me know that my five-second definition of “patients” was “borrrrr-ing.”

Since when was “5 years old” the new “13?”

Eventually, we were ready for action. The battlefield was set. The enemy was somewhere beyond the trees. And my son and I were in a foxhole ready for war. All was quiet -- until my boy asked when the action would begin.

The enemy fired the first shot. My son and I returned the fire. Bullets were whizzing back and forth.

A grenade dropped into our foxhole, and we had to evacuate or die. I took the lead, and we jumped into a foxhole to our right. But the enemy was moving in on us -- and fast. My son and I couldn’t sidestep the enemy or sooner than later they’d be on top of us.

I had a plan to sneak around the opposition and attack from behind. The plan involved running through a small stream, which I knew my son would appreciate because what boy doesn’t love running through standing water? Then we’d have to slide into a mound of dirt, which, mixed with the water from the stream, would create that muddy mess that mothers hate but boys adore.

My son enjoyed every second of the plan carried out -- until our sneak attack on the enemy backfired and we tripped over some large tree roots in the ground and fell down the side of a cliff the size of a small skyscraper.

At first, I didn’t think I was hurt, and it didn’t sound like my son was in pain either. But once the dust cleared from our fall, I could see that my boy was a bloody mess.

As I tried to stand up to walk over to my kid, I found that the use of my legs would’ve been helpful. I fell flat on my face and cracked three teeth. My limbs felt like Silly Putty, and I was unable to reach my son who was in serous pain. Worse, there was nobody around to help.

My son was screaming, and he was losing blood as fast as bath water drains from a tub. He wanted action, and he got it.

As my boy stared at the massive gash down the right side of his body, he laughed with joy. That’s when my wife called to tell us dinner was ready.

So my son and I gathered up our toy soldiers, even the two injured ones that fell off the cliff, and we headed home.

After dinner, my soldier and my son’s soldier -- the ones that had fallen off the cliff -- died in their sleep. We put them to rest in tin Altoid breath mint boxes, and we buried them in the backyard. I played “Taps” on my harmonica. It was a moving moment.

-August 2008

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