Last week our next-door neighbors and dear friends moved back to their native California. We’ve known them for almost 18 years, ever since a Lincoln Town Car full of kids pulled into the court one day while we were outside playing with Katie. We rushed over and chatted them up: I’ve actually always been a bit surprised we didn’t scare them away!
Fortunately we didn’t. Their then-11-year-old daughter babysat Katie, and when Anita spent 12 days in hospital the year after they moved in, she and her mom were both a huge help. I was fortunate in that I was able to just blow off my job for that period, but there were times when I had to be at the hospital and it would have been too hard for a three-year-old Katie to just hang out, and they took her and kept her entertained.
Over the years, we watched their three kids grow up, becoming two fine young men and a lovely young woman. We swapped recipes, last-minute ingredients, and culinary experiments, spent time together at holidays, celebrated big birthdays, and had silly evenings playing games.
And then in fall 2010, three weeks before Katie’s death, their youngest son was killed in a car accident. As most people would be, we had little idea what we could do to help, but tried our best. And when we found ourselves in a similar position three weeks later, they played a huge role in helping us get through that terrible time.
Since then, we’ve been closer than ever. Neither Anita nor I can imagine having survived without their friendship and love.
But nothing lasts forever, and it was time for them to move back home to be near their daughter (their other son is an Army captain in Afghanistan). We’ve known this was coming for several months, of course, but somehow it was still a shock.
It finally hit home for me the day before they left. I had two garbage cans of weeds sitting by the garage. When I went to take them out for the yard-waste pickup, I found that they were already there. Now that’s obviously a small thing, but how many neighbors know you well enough and are thoughtful enough to do that?
And now they’re gone. Well, not gone gone, obviously: his job is still here, so he’ll be telecommuting and visiting often, and she’ll be visiting too. But we won’t see them every day, and that’s a shock. Their house looks sad and empty without them—as are we.