Saying goodbye to a best friend
This time, though, it was BFF's time to move on. We'd known since December that it would happen in the spring because BFF's dad was leaving the Army in April. We got an extension into May because BFF had to stay long enough to be officially credited with finishing first grade. As a result, Big Guy had had a long time to build up the dread.
"What am I going to do without him?" Big Guy asked shortly after the start of the year. "Who am I going to play with then?"
I mentioned a number of other friends, but none of them would do. None of them had reached the status of bestest friend ever that BFF rightly had achieved.
So I looked back to my own childhood and came up with a story for Big Guy. As fate would have it, I didn't even have to lie.
"You know, I had to move away from my best friend when I was 11," I told him. "Her name was Cheryl, and we'd been best friends since we were 2."
"Did you miss her?"
"Oh, yes, I did. But we wrote each other letters all the time. And once I got to visit her during them summer."
"Do you think I'll get to visit BFF in New York?"
"Maybe someday. Until then, you guys still can play on Club Penguin, and you can write letters, and you can talk on Skype. And who knows? Maybe when you're older you'll wind up running into him right out of the blue someday."
"Yeah, right. Like that really happens."
Ah-HA! I had him there. "Oh, but it really does. I was sitting in my dorm in college one day ..."
"What's a dorm?"
"It's kind of like an apartment for college people. I was sitting in my dorm waiting on some friends when Cheryl walked in. We hadn't seen each other for six years, but there she was."
"Were you friends again?"
"We sure were," I said, skipping details such as all-nighters and drunken karaoke.
Plus you and BFF have computers and unlimited long distance - riches Cheryl and I had never dreamed would exist outside of a "Jetsons" episode.
As the day drew nearer, though, Big Guy grew more glum. He and BFF also started bickering - I suppose it's the kiddy equivalent of the adult pre-deployment blowup. On BFF's last day at school, they argued most of the day though they apologized and hugged each other in the end. Their teacher had taught them that after their first spat a few months earlier.
"I hated today. It was the last day I'll see him and we spent too much of it fighting." Big Guy heaved a huge, heart-broken sigh. "And tomorrow morning he'll be gone."
I hear from veteran military spouses that these things get easier. The first few are tremendously sad, but after a few years the kids start taking it for granted that people move in and out of their lives. "They'll just wave cheerfully and say, 'Bye!' " the wife told me.
Big Guy and BFF have talked every day since BFF flew east. They haven't met up online yet, but only because BFF's computer hasn't caught up with him.
Big Guy, meanwhile, has a long-range plan for once again catching up with BFF.
"Mommy, do all soldiers have to come to Fort Irwin?"
"Most of them do eventually, to train."
He nodded approvingly. "Good. I'll be stationed here, and when BFF comes here to train, I'll see him again."
Why not? It worked for Cheryl and me.
Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.