Bye, Fred and Ethel

Our neighbors from across the street, our best couple friends, our very own Fred and Ethel moved off to Kansas yesterday. He had a job transfer and now they’re gone. They were such good friends I don’t think I’ve had time to fully grasp the size of the hole their moving on has left in our family’s life. How do you replace an Uncle Dan and Aunt Cindy?

Of course the usual things were promised about keeping in touch. We already have made plans for visits. We’ll still exchange homemade Christmas ornaments. They kidnapped a plaster of Paris kitsch statue of my Mother-in-Law’s from our front yard with a promise to send back polaroids of the “Blue Boy” having a great time by the pool. We’ll go our there to pick up “Blue Boy” in another month when we come out there.

But we all knew that the kind of visiting that forged our friendship — that day In, day out, on the front swing, coffee and cards kind of getting together — is over. There’s a big difference between having friends in Kansas and friends across the street. Even the dearest of friends.

I remember thinking in high school that the friends I had then would be my friends for the rest of my life and that we’d always be together. And for the most part the first was true and the second one was a bittersweet lie we all told ourselves. At the end of college, when Heidi and I drove away from college into our new life together, I was a little bit wiser about goodbyes and promises to keep in touch. We do keep in touch, but you have to be realistic about your standards of “in touch.”

Now I accept a little more about how friendship changes over time. How, though intensity of friendship is proportional to proximity, friends are always still friends no matter the distance. We’ll miss you, Uncla Dan and Aunt Cindy. Someone may move into your old house, but we’ll keep a place for you here on the block.