I got your back kid.

I was driving away from Logan’s Steakhouse with a backseat full of kids and Terrance in the front, after a “go well to Africa” lunch with his family, when the little dude proudly said it, “Ryan said he’d take anybody out who ever tries to mess with us or hurt us.” Well, wasn’t that a gangsta’ thing for me to have said! At first I had no frame of reference and wondered when this kid might have dreamed up me saying those menacing words. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about at first, but none the less, at the very least, the latter part of the statement is true, so I just nodded my head and said, “That’s right!” I looked at Terrance to see if he thought I was gangsta’, well, and also to see if he wondered what the hell I had been telling his nephews.

And then I remembered, and knew exactly what the kid was talking about.

The little dude is Mike Mike, Terrance’s 8-year-old nephew. I’ve enjoyed hanging out with him, and the rest of Terrance’s family, on my recent visits to Nashville. They’ve kind of taken me in as “that dude who sleeps on our couch”. I’ve grown to love them dearly. So dearly, I suppose, I am making hypothetical threats, to hypothetical bad guys. Like, anybody who wants to get to them’s gotta get through me first! But I guess it didn’t really happen that “on the nose”, so let me explain.

A few weekends ago on a Nashville visit, Terrance and I got in late one night. Earlier in that day I had shown the slightest bit of interest in a video game the boys had been playing, and so when we came in that night the nephews and a friend were playing and offered to let me play with them. I decided to take them up on their offer, and Terrance went to bed. Game on! It was one of those shoot ’em up games, and they were playing multiple players, where you try to find each other and, well, shoot! I was terrible. And they loved it!

I went on like a geezer about how “back in my day the controllers only had two buttons”, and these modern-day controllers have a few hundred, at least! I couldn’t work the stupid thing. I would finally get the guy to run and, gradually as he ran, he would begin looking up at the sky, pointing the gun straight up in the air. This happened often. I never got the knack of aiming, or pretty much anything for that matter, and so when I would sense someone was near I would spin in circles and hold the trigger down. My little man would spin, and bullets would fly. That rarely worked, if ever. I died, often. And lost, every time. But they seemed to thoroughly enjoy taking turns beating me. So, I enjoyed that.

As we played we talked about all sorts of things: South Africa, life there, the kids I worked with, crime, and what not. I told them some stories about different exciting times. All in all, it was a fun night. It became a joke that I would challenge them to a rematch, revenge if you will, the next weekend. And, what do you know, one late night last weekend that moment came. Rematch! And I was worse than ever before. It was to the point of embarrassment, really. But I finally hung up my controller and just chatted to them as they played.

They started talking about how scary it would be to actually be one of those little men running around with a gun, with people after you, trying to kill you. They asked if I would want to do that, or if I would be scared. I told I ideally would not ever want to be in that position, and that I’d definitely never fight for the army, and I don’t believe in guns or killing, so it would have to be a very worthy cause for me to pick up a gun and run around trying to kill people. “Like what?” they asked. I thought for a moment. “Well, like if someone tried to hurt or come after someone I loved or cared about. Like if someone was after you guys or something, I’d try and take them out. But I think violence is rarely the answer.”

I guess, looking back, I could see it in Mike Mike’s eyes when I said that. He looked at me for a moment with sparkly eyes, which, at the time, I am sure I thought had more to do with my noble pacifist stance and final closing statement, than me saying I’d take someone out. But driving in the car I realized that Mike Mike had heard me, and he heard me right, if anyone tried to hurt them, I’d probably be quick to jump into action. And when he proudly, and randomly, stated in the car, after a peaceful Sunday lunch, I realized something that I’ve realized before: every kid likes to know there are people out there who’ve “got their backs”. Nice reminder.

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