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When PCS stands for “poor child’s sad”

Submitted by on Monday, 28 February 2011 One Comment

Big Guy survived his BFF’s move last spring, and the relationship continues to thrive thanks to unlimited long distance and Skype. He teetered last week, though, when another friend – the first he’d made here at Fort Irwin – departed.

Then he looked around last night and was horrified. The girls next door on the right are leaving in April, while the ones on the left are moving in June. His best girl friend is going sometime in between.

He saw the future, and it was grim and lonely. “I can’t play with my brother all the time. Who will I go trick or treating with? Or make Christmas presents and Valentines for? Or ride bikes with and make lemonade stands with? Oh my God, who will come for the New Year’s Eve sleepover? There’s no one. No one, no one, no one!” he cried, burying his head in a pillow, his chest heaving.

He paused long enough to barely catch his breath. “I know I have Rita, but she’s a dog. I wouldn’t take five dogs … 100 dogs … 1,000 dogs … infinity dogs … for one friend – no offense, Rita,” he choked toward her snoring body.

We were lucky to survive Christmas without many people disappearing, though Big Guy did include one kid who’d been a teammate and a classmate in his late-night rundown of who’s left since we’ve moved here. This PCS season – permanent change of station, which translated to civilian talk means “time to move on” – is going to hit hard, though.

It hits harder when you’re Big Guy’s age. Even experienced military kids go through it – one of his baseball teammates was worried late last spring about finding friends at the family’s new post. It was the first move that had bothered him, his mom said.

“It’s no fair. Adults have Facebook,” he said, spitting out the word as if it were an epithet. “It doesn’t matter to  you if your friends leave. Kids don’t have anything. We can’t see pictures. We can’t put up pictures. There’s nothing, nothing, nothing.”

That’s not quite true, I said gently. Don’t you think I don’t miss Miss S? And she’s not even gone yet – she’s just working now and doesn’t have much time.

He considered that for a moment and conceded that I did have a point. But, then, so did he. Losing friends is easier for adults, largely because we have experience to rely on. During my early years in the newspaper business, I lived a military-like existence. Two or three years and it was time to move on.

I tried to reassure Big Guy, but the kid who could view the future in such high-definition horror was unable to remember the past.

“A year ago, you weren’t playing with the girls at all. Over the summer, though, you got to be friends with them. You’ll make friends again. You’re a smart, fun kid. It will happen,” I said.

What if the new families don’t have kids, he asked.

These are three-bedroom houses, I said. There’s not much chance they’ll go to someone without kids.

What if the new people have a 16-year-old and a baby? There will be kids, but none for me to play with, he countered.

That could happen, but it’s not likely to happen with both houses. What if there are two boys, one 5 and one 7. Wouldn’t that be perfect? That’s what I’m going to hope for, I told him.

What if the 7-year-old doesn’t like me? What then?

Then I’ll just have to work a little harder at making sure  you see your friends. There are plenty of people who still will be around, I said, reeling off names. You’ll have someone to play with.

“It won’t be the same,” he sobbed. “Right now, I can just go knock on a door. God, I don’t even want to see their door after they leave. It still will smell like them and … make … me … so … sad.” We were 90 minutes into his misery at that point, and it wasn’t abating in the least.

“Think about this,” I said. “Somewhere in the Army, there’s a boy who’s crying, crying, crying. He’s moving to a new base and leaving all his friends. He’s convinced he’ll never find any new friends.”

Yes … he said hesitantly, not sure where I was going with this.

Maybe he’s coming here. Maybe he’ll move onto our street. Maybe you and he will play together all the time.

You don’t know that that’s going to happen, he said.

And you don’t know that it’s not, I countered.

Other than rocking him and holding him and listening when he needs to weep, it’s the best I can offer for the time being.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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