The Red Baron flies again

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

When grandparents don’t get to see their grands more than once or twice a year, the changes are perhaps more dramatic than those observed by parents and neighbors.

Maybe I’m over-simplifying but everything seems to come clear by comparison. Last time we were here, for instance, a year or so ago, the boys still had to be protected from themselves. Adult meds had to be hidden or locked up because if the boys found it, they might indeed open the container and taste these cute little pills to see if they will make them bigger and stronger and faster.

Now they merely glance at whatever we put up on the top of the bureau, and pay only the slightest bit of attention to our orders to leave them alone.
Not to say they couldn’t still get in trouble, but our watchfulness is not nearly so demanding as it used to be.

And they may be outside by themselves for a half hour or so at a time, although Grandma’s eyes well up as she watches them hold hands to cross a couple of streets on their way to the nearest playground.

The boys really are close. Some of Samuel’s autistic problems take him a bit outside the usual social morés, but he is as smart as any 8-year-old I’ve ever known. So when he and his brother Uriah, 5, play together, there is really rather little friction. In fact, each one has something to contribute.

They sing together, songs from CDs aimed at children or from church. Their mother says it takes only one try before the boys have essentially learned a new song. This morning it was a hymn. This evening it was the Red Baron in a war game.

Their time on their computers is fairly well limited by their parents, and there is no television in the house. What TV their parents might want them to see may be garnered by recording something by subscription.

I’m really not sure which is more toxic: the junk that is broadcast on TV or the games the boys are allowed to play or watch their older brother play. Isaac, now 18, joins a friend to battle some sort of war games and sometimes the little guys squeeze through until they are hunkered below eye level of the big boys. From that vantage, they get to see brains blown out and blood streaming realistically from dismembered bodies.

No one comes out to help the wounded, no priest offers last rites, no one stops to grieve the dead or see to cleaning up the horror.

I know I’m beating an old worn-out drum with this theme, but I am absolutely certain that these “games” have desensitized young people who enlist and fight wars in far-off places. The rate of post-traumatic stress syndrome has jumped off the scale since our youth are meeting real violence and real death for the first time in their lives in the Middle East, and many of them have never learned how to deal with it.

I guess my boys will weather whatever life sends their way, when the time comes. Last night they were really wound up, running from the kitchen through the dining and living rooms and back again, over and over and over again.

The pounding on the floor reverberated through Jean’s townhouse, until at last we brought order by bringing out some ice cream and pretty dishes. Actually, the boys are not that fond of ice cream, so the respite was rather short.

“Go on up to bed, boys; it’s that time” brings only a moment’s resistance, but it was a nice break for the grandparents reading and writing on the couch.
Tonight was actually better. The computer was quieter and the mayhem more farcical. We were in the clear, blue skies over Germany, praising the prowess of – do you remember? – German Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, a.k.a. the Red Baron, ace aerial dogfighter of World War I.

The expression on the boys’ parents’ faces said that they had heard enough of the anthem that follows the Red Baron wherever he goes, but the addition of two clear high-pitched little-boy voices endeared me to the legendary flier all over again. Who wouldn’t love “Curse you, Red Baron!” guest vocals by Samuel and Uriah Withnell?

It sent all of us back down Memory Lane. I don’t know which came first, the little song by the Royal Guardsmen or the affection we had for Charles Schultz’s best-selling cartoon hero, Snoopy.

Funny how our memories work. Without a quick research trip via Google, I couldn’t have told you that the development of Snoopy or the Royal Guardsmen took place during one of my busier decades, the 1960s. Busy as I was raising babies in those days, a kernel of popular music lodged somewhere in my brain, collecting enough memory to burst forth in curious nostalgia.

Ten, 20, 30, 40, 50, or more. I guess every war has its Snoopy.

“Curses, foiled again, Red Baron!” indeed.

SallieS@Juno.com