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Playing Games Saved My Son. . .Or Maybe It Saved Me

July 16, 2018

When my brother was 17 we lost track of him. Literally. He’s my half brother. He went to live with his dad and graduated from high school on the other side of the state. And then he dropped out of sight.

My childhood could be described as less than idyllic. Until I was 11 years old, thing were pretty chaotic. My mother did an amazing job. She was all about taking care of us kids, whatever it took. After 11, things got much more stable. But, we are all victims of our history.

My brother’s disappearance didn’t shock us. We were concerned, but in the days before social media, there was not a lot of contact anyway. He’d had an even more chaotic childhood than I had. And at 17 he was on a pretty dangerous path.

I appreciate it more now that my sons are at that age. I have a son who left home at 17. The last year at home things became more strained. He pulled away from family activities, church activities and pretty much anything that was “family” related.

Except games.

My family has a long history of games. Especially board games. Another brother gave us a copy of Star Trek Attack Wing a few years ago. It’s a table top game. You pick a ship from the Star Trek universe and you try to kill your opponent’s ship, also from the Star Trek universe.

The game is, of course, much more complex than that. You can have multiple ships. And the Romulans, the Klingons, the Ferengi or the Borg all have special capabilities. The combinations are endless.

My brother sent us ships. A lot of ships. Like over 300. The ships typically cost $15 each. My son and I spent hours with STAW, as it’s called. We played, of course, but we also strategized about different fleet possibilities. We went to tournaments. And we won them, although it wouldn’t have mattered if we lost.

My son is 6’5″. My brother who was lost is 6’5″. My son reminds me a lot of my brother.

Eventually, my brother called us and reconnected with family. With the help of my parents, he straightened up and went to college. He married a wonderful woman. Years later he bought my mother’s CPA firm. It became Bliss & Skeen CPA, although there is not a Bliss there anymore.

My son will head off to Utah State University this fall. He wants to be an Astro-naughtical engineer. And get a PhD. Basically he wants to be a rocket scientist. Considering he graduated a year early with a 3.89 GPA and got a 35 out of 36 on his ACT, there’s no reason he couldn’t be.

I think about the year he left home. I can’t help comparing it to my brother’s circumstance. I won’t say that Star Trek is what saved our relationship. But, there were plenty of times where the only time he’d talk was across a 3×3′ play area with little plastic model ships.

So, I’m not saying it didn’t save it either.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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