I hear the thud of the basket ball hitting the pavement. So close it could be our driveway. A few deep rubbery thuds then the reverberating sound of the ball hitting the backboard and rim, then the thud again . It repeats. Thud…thud…thud…thud… then the voices…pause…clank. This goes on and repeats several times. I smile and sense the peace that comes with that sound. He is next door, so close, and outside with his best friend and the others- all such good friends. I hear the laughing and the exclamations. I relax at that sound. He’s close, he’s safe, he’s having fun. Barely more than an arms length away. Not that I could hear what they say, muffled by the walls of our house, but I know the voices. All the voices so distinguishable and familiar. The four of them as usual. I hear Aiden’s laugh. God, I love that sound. I can make dinner and still hear them. I go on.
Then I’m back to our old house, just a few short years ago. Before. The squeals and giggles coming up from the basement. The sound of imaginative play. A different place, not that long ago, but the same feeling. Joy in the sound of comfortable, uninhibited laughter and boys having found the best friend. The feeling of safety and home. In one place the laughter floats up from the basement, the other down from upstairs. The latter, the voices just a little older sounding. All is well.
There must’ve been a near miss or a crazy shot that was made. I can tell by the shouting, yelling and the pause in activity. They are laughing and re-grouping, relishing in the momentary heroism of the play. Ribbing the other team for not stopping it. Boys. They are not inside playing x-box or watching TV, they are doing what we used to do when we were kids. Bikes on the sidewalk, sweatshirts strewn about the yard. They are doing exactly what they should be doing-breathing fresh air, solving problems. negotiating, learning to give it and learning to take it, having fun. Being boys. Life lessons. Our future. My future.
Back again, I can see the tanned little figures go flying by the back door, crossing through the gleam of the afternoon sun and across the pool patio. Aiden’s straw fedora shades his face and he wears the little black slides he wore all summer. So stinking cute. I hope he doesn’t trip over the pavers and fall in those things. They are playing army. Until they get side-tracked by a big bug or a dried up snakeskin they find along the pool stones. I love their fascination with nature. Their 2 little heads, tops nearly touching as they peer down to observe the latest wonder. The memory fades like a movie I saw once. Disconnected. I want to recall what happens next, but I can’t really, it was a day like dozens of others.
I’m back to the here, and now.
There are no voices today. Only the sound of one solitary basketball. Thud…thud…thud…clank.
One sound. Thud…thud…thud…clank. The absence of other sounds is deafening. It’s making my stomach ache, my heart break. The idea of a little boy whose best friend is no more- I can’t stand to think of it, but it is. This boy, and that boy. One near, one far. Both treasured like family. It’s not right, it’s just not fair. It’s ALL so wrong. Are they OK? Devastated, I know. The memory of the other’s beautiful black eyes and sweet smile- the face of that dear first best friend is almost too much to bear. I will likely never lay eyes on him again. I don’t think I ever could. They had become such a part of each other. I can feel his pain but he’s only a child and my heart can barely stand the added burden of that. The load feels so damn heavy.
They couldn’t say goodbye.
They had years of football games and basketball games and late night laughter-filled sleep-overs ahead of them and I, the joy of witnessing it.
Yes, I mourn them too. Their loss of Aiden and my loss of them. I miss them in our life, in our house, on FaceTime and in sleeping bags on our bonus room floor.
As some of the layers of “this” are reluctantly peeled away, others appear, waiting to be faced. I have had enough, but these realities I could not face before, await their acknowledgment too. (Why can’t the mind ever just rest and breathe and be? Why must there always be more and more layers to peel?) These boys I love so much. One my son, the others the ones he chose and loved and trusted with himself. No pretenses or insecurities. Just pure, beautiful friendship.
They had no say.
Neither did I.
Blindsided and forever altered by the unthinkable.
My loss is their loss too. Different, but pain and loss and confusion just the same.
I ache for them. I love them too.
They made his life happy and comfortable and good. Silly crazy laughing and just doing life together.
I miss them here, being a part of us. I miss their laughing voices trailing down the stairs. Hysteria. I miss the doorbells and the counter full of glasses from the water breaks.
The thought of their pain takes my breath away. I want to tell them I miss them, and I miss them and Aiden together.
I’m so sorry.
I haven’t forgotten you lost too. I haven’t forgotten this isn’t just my new world.
When I hear that solitary basketball, I ache for him. I have 1,000 things I ache for all day long, but it was his best friend, it was his time, his safe person in a world of crazy.
They were everything that is wonderful and beautiful about childhood.
So today I cry for them, not me.