He wandered into our yard, and our hearts, almost seven years ago. It was a sunny Saturday in April, the kids were ages 9, 7, and 6 at the time and playing in the backyard. He was 4 years old but with the composure of someone 20 years his senior, he strolled over and introduced himself. From that day forward, he too was one of our own. I call him “my fourth child” and whenever he tells someone he’s an only child, I react with mock indignance. He laughs and smiles that “too wise to the ways of the world” smile he’s known for.
That’s our Alex.
Old Alex. He’s an old soul.
Over the last 7 years the kids have grown up together. We watched him go from the tricycle to the scooter to the two wheeler. We watched him play baseball and soccer and hockey and lacrosse. The kids have spent summers at the pool, swinging in the back yard, chalking up the driveway, throwing water balloons, fishing in the stream.
We’ve shared Christmas mornings, Thanksgiving evenings, and birthdays every year.
Picnics were gathered and spread out on a moment’s notice. Sno-cone stands were set up on the corner in a flash. Yard sales? They were regulars, offering the neighbors great deals on gently used but grown out of clothes and toys. They could hunt out scads of lost golf balls from the golf course across the street and turn them into a tidy profit. Their schemes were endless.
He’s slept in my house more times than anyone outside of the five of us.
He was part of turning the basement into a juice bar, complete with mood lighting, soft music, comfortable seating, and a sugary assortment of fruity drinks. He was the most suave of servers, we even had his parents over for a double date one night. Other times the basement was a disco, complete with mirrored ball and hanging lights. The piano and the organ down there frequently rang out in clashy improvised song. Sometimes it was sound effects.
There were crazy science experiments (somehow always requiring baking soda or eggs and an open second floor window, I’m pleased to report we’ve not had one casualty yet) and crazy recipe experiments. When the kids made up their own version of the Food Network game “Chopped” (called Sliced, naturally), he gamely took the responsibility of being a contestant, despite his lack of experience in the kitchen.
There’s been no shortage of laughter in my house the last seven years, that’s for sure.
As they’ve grown older, there’s been more time spent on legos and movies and video games, less on crazy shenanigans. The last week I’ve heard not much more then the soft lilting music of Minecraft. Such is the pastime of 11 year old and 14 year old best friends.
About to be separated by 1,200 miles.
When for the last seven years, they’ve been separated by little more than 1,200 inches.
Best friends, living right next door to one another. How often does that happen?
So that soft moody music coming from Minecraft this past week has been particularly poignant. One night they had a sleepover, playing games until they collapsed on the couch while I fell asleep upstairs much earlier but fully cognizant that it would be a long time until I heard those sounds again, and I would miss them.
I will miss him.
I’m happy for them that there’s the promise of a better, more satisfying job and a slower-paced life, something they’re looking for. And they’ll be much closer to family, all of it within a few hours drive rather than a plane ride away. It will be a sad goodbye, but they’re making tradeoffs for a different lifestyle and I hope it pays off for them.
As for us, I think the most difficult part is that we won’t be here for the final goodbye. Doug and I are off to Austin for an early 20th anniversary celebration (which includes Quilt Con for me – the first national Modern Quilt Guild conference – so much fun!). We’ll be gone when Alex and his parents drive off on Saturday morning. The kids will be here, staying home with their grandma, for the final goodbye. The selfish part of me is glad I won’t be there, I doubt tearful goodbyes are fun for anyone.
But my kids, oh, my kids. Ouch. I have no idea how they’re going to handle it. Too many tears have rolled down my cheeks this week just imagining it. Knowing them, though, they’ll take it better than I give them credit for, they continually surprise me with how they’re able to process things. But I just don’t know. This is literally life-changing.
Everyday life changing. My heart aches for all four of them. For us.
My heart is aching for me, too.
Cheers, Old Alex. It was a great 7-year run we’ve had together.
Until we meet again.