On Saturday, Henry’s best buddies moved. Two brothers who lived directly behind us. We had been here for a year before we finally met. (Tall fences aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.) Just a shimmy through a child-sized opening at the end of fence and for the past three years, a treasure of play moved freely between their yard and ours.
We had been occupied the night before the move. When Henry was finally available, it was past 8:30. He asked if he could still go over to see the boys. I could see the pleading in his eyes. In the dark, he slid through that secret passageway one last time to play with his pals. I didn’t want to call him home when I finally did. I wished, in the same way I’m sure he did, that he could hang on just a little longer.
On the day of the move, we had baseball practice and other busy activities. I wanted to keep him occupied, if I could. But his mind was full of thoughts and memories. Every now and then he would just say their names. Or some fact of their friendship. Their Grandpa’s neighbor’s name, trivia about a toy, or some other tidbit. “I’ve known them for three years. Three years.” He’d often say. He ran in the back every time he heard a truck or loud engine, a quick slip through the fence to see if they had returned.
“They have to come back to clean out their garage.”
I told him that the boys would probably not be back to help clean out the garage. That was a job for their dad. He agreed with the logic, but then was back out there again.
I’m not sure how many times he actually went over there. But it was often. I tried not to imagine him looking at their empty yard or through windows at empty rooms. I could only wonder how he was processing everything he was seeing and feeling that day.
One moment, he’d excitedly tell me features of their new home. He had me look it up on the internet. He was proud to identify it by sight on the Google street view. He already had been to visit it two times. The next minute I’d catch him sitting alone with his eyes just welling with tears, but he’d stop short of crying. He’d just look at me with a what-am-I-going-to-do-now expression. Finally, at the very end of the day he was just too tired to fight back the tears anymore. He let me hold him, and I just let him cry.
Gone are the lazy summer days where play started with two mop-headed blonds at our back door while breakfast dishes still filled the sink. The endless play that shifted from one house to the other, the inventions and water slides, the hours in their pool or on our trampoline. The talk of Star Wars and all things boy. Gone are the days of not having to slave over making millions of play dates necessary to fill the energy of our turbo-charged dear little boy. Who needs play dates when your best friends share your own backyard?
At Henry’s suggestion, we brought the boys their favorite meal of macaroni and cheese on the day after their move. As I was preparing a salad, I asked Henry if one of the boys was allergic to strawberries.
“Oh, no. It’s his second favorite fruit.” He said. Second favorite, I inquired. “Oh yes, apples are his favorite.”
Spoken like a true friend. Richard and I could only do our best keep it together as we shared teary-eyed glances at the kitchen sink.
I know Henry will be okay. Thankfully, the boys are still close by. But my boy is still experiencing the profound loss of his world as he knows it. And loss in a multitude of circumstances is unfortunately the stuff of life. We travel through these moments at times sure the pain is going to be the end of us. But then we realize we lived through it and know the next time it comes that it didn’t actually kill us. Even though it may have felt like it would at the time.
As a parent, I feel his pain. For him, in some way, this is a cross. Of course, I want to take it from him. But I can’t. I don’t even think I can lessen the weight of it. But I’m sure I can at least walk along side him. Hopefully, Henry finds peace knowing that Richard and I are here walking with him, and that God is here, carrying us all.
FYI, we’ve already made plans for play time and Henry is curious to see who moves in. (We already know there aren’t any little boys.)