When my children were small I often told them bedtime stories surrounding the adventures of “Fighting Boys to the Rescue!” Based on the stories my father told me and the stories his father told him, the stories I told had a central character of Ritzinputz the talking squirrel.
He was at the center of a group of friends including Captain Velvet from the planet Mars, Ghost Man – who was scared of himself, Frog Man who had a terrible flatulence problem and King Dinosaur who was a big Elvis Presley fan. Together this group righted wrongs, went on adventures and had fun. Of course my children were included in these tales and many a night getting the kids to go to bed was made easier with a “Fighting Boys to the Rescue!” story.
They explored Black Holes, had picnics, played sports, saved the planet and led lives of teamwork adventure without ever leaving the comfort of their beds. It goes without saying that when the boys had friends over to spend the night those friends were folded into the stories and became part of the ongoing adventures.
Naturally as the stories progressed they became a requirement and something which the children looked forward to with some appreciation – and so did their friends.
One of those children was Andrew Turner. Andrew was four years younger than my youngest son, but he liked to tag along with his older brother Marcus who was on the parish football team and friends with my middle son Brennan. Andrew was a happy puppy dog. He just wanted to be around and loved to be a part of the group.
When Brennan started to make home movies, Andrew was the private in the “Battle of the Zirillians” who helped save Earth from an invasion of evil aliens. He became the plucky comic relief in other adventures and followed Brennan around, eager to do anything it took just to hang around the big guys.
When I told Fighting Boy stories, Andrew would pull the covers up to his face, offer a big grin as his eyes got larger and laugh or offer a gasp at the appropriate parts in the story.
His mother, who was raising five children by herself, appreciated my wife and me allowing Andrew to hang around with the older kids and we never worried because Andrew was such an affable child. His mother taught him to be polite and he always called me “Coach Brian” and my wife was always “Mrs. Karem.”
With an infectious laugh and a “Big ole smile” along with his very expressive eyes Andrew was not only welcomed around our household but along with his brothers they became part of our extended family during football season and outside of it.
I never met anyone who didn’t like Andrew. Brennan nicknamed him “Turtle” partly because he had a little Buddha belly when he was younger and partly because Brennan liked to pick out nicknames that no one could figure out – but enjoyed anyway. My oldest son was “Gacko” for years until my father convinced Brennan to stop calling Zachary by that name.
By the time Andrew came around Dad had been dead for several years, so Pop never got a chance to admonish Brennan on “Turtle.”
But Andrew and everyone liked it and the moniker stuck around the house. Outside he was known as “Drew” or “Drewski” but at our house he was “Turtle.”
As he grew older and our kids grew older, they of course went their separate ways and since my children were much older, once they moved away from home Andrew stopped coming around.
But we occasionally stayed in touch – and when he got a little older his mother adopted one of the puppies from our dog “Ringo” when she gave birth.
Earlier this year I heard from Andrew for the first time in a while and now at the age of 18 I found out he had a son – which floored me – but he spoke eagerly about being a father and asked me about how to tell stories to his son.
A few weeks ago, my youngest son Wyatt saw Andrew and his brother Marcus at the movie theaters and they caught up – eager to renew and enjoy their friendship again.
This weekend his mother reached out to me.
Saturday while standing outside of their Germantown home, someone shot Andrew in the throat.
He stumbled into the house and into his brother’s arms. Unable to speak and gasping in shock, Andrew bled out – dying before the ambulance arrived.
As I write this there are no suspects – nor is there a known motive. I can’t think of anyone who would want to hurt Andrew. I can't understand why.
But I know the family has no money to bury him and the affable child I knew is gone.
I cannot help but ask why and wonder, as I have so many times in my life, how we continue to turn a blind eye to gun violence – especially when it takes someone like Andrew.
Those who expect fairness in this world are often disappointed.
But those who do not fight for what’s right surrender to the darkness. Losing Andrew wasn’t right and we all should be fighting mad.
PLEASE HELP the family bury their son.