As an adult, Mike took his kids back to his old elementary school for the spring carnival. It was fun showing them the school and telling them stories about teachers and friends. The “pick a fish” game at the carnival was being run by one of those friends—a former neighbor from across the street. When Mike introduced them, the friend told the kids they should thank his parents for them being there—that he couldn’t count the number of times his parents kept their Uncle Don from killing Mike when he was little. Everyone laughed, but Mike was bothered by the comment—he defended himself from his crazy, older brother! How many times had anyone even witnessed their fights? Then Mike remembered one incident that did involve the neighbors and he started to reminisce.
Mike was 12 and about to join his first little league team. Before that started, he and the other boys in the neighborhood formed their own mini-teams to practice. They played in the rocky field next to the neighbor’s house across the street from Mike’s parents. The field had been the staging area when the house was built and there were lots of rocks and small pieces of cinderblock. You didn't dare slide into a base during the games!
Mike’s older brother Don, 15, was a real sports nut and often served as the umpire when his team wasn’t playing. During one of those games, the neighbor’s son hit a ground ball to Mike. It hit a rock and bounced away from him. For some reason, Don went berserk that Mike didn’t catch it (Don was the umpire???). Don ran over to Mike and started yelling about it. Then Mike made a big mistake.
Fights with Don had gotten more even as Mike grew, but no less frequent. Don had a terrible temper and you never knew what would set him off. On the field, Mike knew they were about to fight and thought, “here we go again". During the time it took for that thought to cross his mind, Mike sighed and rolled his eyes—for just a second. When he looked back, Don had already reared back and was throwing the ball at Mike’s face as hard as he could. Since they were only 5 feet apart, Mike didn't have time to react. The ball hit him in the middle of his forehead and he dropped over backwards like a dead tree falling. Mike wasn’t sure what happened next. Did he lose consciousness? Apparently the neighbors (parents) chased Don off the field and helped Mike to his feet. Don wasn't allowed to return—ever.
Mike had forgotten about that day. He wouldn’t have thought of it if they hadn’t run into the old neighbor. But over the years he had remembered the lesson he learned in the field that day—don’t take your eyes off someone who's angry or crazy. You never know what they might do! But he only had to watch Don for another three years. That's when Mike turned 15 and permanently put a stop to his brother's attacks.