Heavy Hearted

As I said in my previous post, Brendan was very excited to start camp.  He’d been looking forward to the experience for the entire year and was practically bouncing off the walls now that the time had come again to actually go to camp.  The first morning of camp we arrive at the school about 30-45 minutes before camp is slated to start so that we can get the kids checked in, figure out which classrooms they are assigned to and find those rooms so they know how to get from room to room.

Last year Brendan’s schedule took him all over the place and we ran through his schedule 2 or 3 times before he was satisfied that he knew where to go.  This year his classes were a little more confined (rooms 5, 6, and 7…can’t get much closer together than that) and so we didn’t end up walking through his schedule at all.  Cameron’s were a bit more spread out but still near enough to Brendan’s that we only walked through his schedule one time before Brendan offered to help him find his way.

This meant that we were done walking through the schedule pretty quickly and had 25 minutes to kill off before camp would start.  We found a nice deserted corner of the entrance hall and sat against the wall to wait it out.  Our spot was the perfect place to people watch as we were right near the front door and could observe people coming in and make their way through the same things that we had just done.

After about 10 minutes had passed and I was starting to lose interest in my people watching, a familiar face walked through the front door.  I’m pretty sure that my jaw actually hit the floor.  Brendan’s best friend from first, second, and third grade had just come in with his mom, sister and brother.  His mom recognized me and vice versa, and we greeted each other politely.  The two boys just kind of stared at each other.  With prompting from both his mom and me we got the boys to exchange a quick hello before she bustled her kids off to get their schedules.  The look on Brendan’s face as they melted into the crowd matched my own shock quite nicely.

You see, we weren’t expecting to ever see this particular friend again.  This year the boys were placed in separate classes from each other.  Despite not being in the same classroom all day they still made time to play together at recess every single day from August to December.  Then in late November/early December we found out that the little boy and his family would be moving across the state.

Long distance friendships are very hard, and you’re never going to be quite as good of friends as you would be if you lived closer to one another, but they are doable.  (Believe me I moved a lot as a kid and my best friend from second grade and my best friend from sixth grade are two people I still keep in touch with on a regular basis)  We planned to get his new address from him when he moved and to teach Brendan the joys of “snail” mail.  I figured the excitement of opening the mailbox and having a letter addressed to him would be something that might take the sting out of the fact that his friend wouldn’t be around any more.

But things didn’t quite work out that way.  Matt and I are really not clear on what all happened but the aftermath has left us both crushed.  Within weeks of the moving announcement Brendan stopped playing with his friend at recess.  When we probed and asked why not his answer was always the same that he just hadn’t had time to go and find his friend.  We didn’t have too much time to probe into the problem deeper at that point as it was the holiday’s and that time of year is always crazy.

Before we knew it, it was time to send out invitations to Brendan’s birthday party again.  He invites different boys from year to year, but since first grade there are two boys he’s invited consistently.  One would be the little boy who moved across town last summer (the boys have maintained their friendship rather well despite the different elementary schools–they’ve had 3 or 4 sleepovers in the last year) and the other one is the friend who announced he was moving in December.

Without hesitation Brendan made sure those two boys were the top of this years birthday invitations as well.  We were relieved to see that he still wanted to invite the boy since they hadn’t appeared (to us anyway) to be getting along very well.  The invitation went out and within days we got a response back from the boy’s mom…no.  She said they had other obligations that weekend and wouldn’t be able to make it.  Brendan was crushed.  So I wrote back and suggested that we arrange for a play date for the boys.  The mom never responded to my second email.

That was the point where Matt and I realized that things might be a little worse off between the two boys than we originally thought.  For the rest of the school year we would ask once in a while if the boy and his family had moved yet or not and if Brendan had talked to his friend lately.  The answer was always the same, no they hadn’t moved, and no he hadn’t talked to him.  Around April we finally figured that the family was probably delaying their move until after the school year ended (a luxury my family never did have…a billion moves and not a single one of them happened during summer vacation).

Brendan seemed to be adjusting well to life without his friend, so we stopped asking about him.  I think we had a harder time letting the friend go than Brendan did.  The kid had a special place in our hearts because he was Brendan’s very first real friend.  He’d had tons of kids that he was friendly with, but this was the first one that he became inseparable with.  Brendan, on the other hand, accepted what happened and moved on to find other friends to take that one’s place.

So there we were at the start of summer camp facing the very family we thought had moved across the state.  I looked at the situation as a positive thing.  Maybe the boys would be in a class or two together and could spend the week rekindling their friendship.  After the first day of camp I found that was not to be.  The boys were in none of the same classes, and Brendan spent so much of the break times herding Cameron from class to class that he never ran into his friend.

But it was their interaction on the last day of camp that really broke my heart.  The kids and I had run a little later than usual that morning and so arrived at camp only about 10 minutes early.  Because we were so much later than usual our normal spot over by the door was taken.  We made our way through the crowd and found an open spot over by the gym.  As I looked up I noticed that we were standing right next to Brendan’s friend and his family.

Brendan noticed them as well and I saw him looking longingly at his friend like he wanted to go and talk with him.  If his friend noticed us it didn’t show on his face.  Seeing how much Brendan wanted to go talk to his friend I decided to encourage him to do so.  It didn’t really matter what or who had started this problem between them, I figured Brendan could be the bigger person and try to resolve their issues.

My encouragement just brought tears to Brendan’s eyes and, while he never actually started crying, he buried his face into my chest and wrapped me in a huge hug.  He was so sad and forlorn that all I could do was hold him.  For the rest of the time we waited there he held onto me and I spent the time comforting him.  With a heavy heart I was finally able to admit and accept that the boys friendship is over for good, and no amount of good intentions will bring them back together.

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