My heart aches for my boys right now. I have been through the experience of moving away from my best friend many times over the years. I remember how sad I was - especially the first few times. Over the years, I guess I sort of got used to it and learned to accept it as a part of life.
The first best friend I remember was Eric Olsen. He lived 5 houses down from me in Chula Vista, CA and we were like two peas in a pod from Kindergarten through 2nd grade. His dad was a Navy helicopter pilot. At the end of 2nd grade, we moved up to San Pedro, just outside of LA (about 2 hours north of San Diego). I saw Eric once after that, when his mom brought him up for a visit, but we were too young to really keep in touch via mail or phone.
Next, up in Long Beach, my best friend was Stephen Bruce. I think we met in like 5th or 6th grade. His dad was on the USS NEW JERSEY. Of course, at the end of 6th grade, we moved BACK to San Diego (and my previous San Diego pal Eric had since moved to the east coast). Stephen came to visit me once down in San Diego, and we were climbing a tree in my backyard when he fell. It really did some bad stuff to his vertebrae and he was in a back brace for like 6 months after that. I did keep in touch with Stephen for a while after he transfered to Norfolk. His dad retired out there, too. When I went to Norfolk for a midshipman cruise in '93, I looked him up and actually got to pay his family a visit.
In 8th through 10th grade, it was Jimmy Osbourne in San Diego. Jimmy had a very long-lasting impact on me. It was Jimmy who got me to listen to 91X (radio station in San Diego) and to appreciate Depeche Mode, the Cure, New Order, Oingo Boingo, among many many other bands. I went to my very first concert with Jimmy - Oingo Boingo at the San Diego Sports Arena in 1986. We went to many more concerts together after that. Then I moved to Oregon. I have still had a chance to see Jimmy on and off over the years. Our moms are friends, so I still get updates on how he's doing.
I don't keep in touch with anyone from high school in Oregon. I was kind of a social outcast there. Most of my classmates had grown up going to school together since Kindergarten, so they weren't sure about this dude who just moved there from California.
As an adult, I've done a little better keeping in touch with friends, although the PCS moves and resultant goodbyes still accumulate. We have a handful of friends who we are very close with, and thanks to the wonders of the internet, we're able to keep in touch with across country and around the world. We continue to hope that our next transfer will take us back to being in close proximity to some of our old friends from previous duty stations.
Anyway, getting back to the point - Our neighbors across the street had two little boys the same ages as our two boys. The boys were inseparable and very close friends. They're leaving this weekend for their new duty station in Norfolk. We had dinner with them one last time last night at P.F. Changs, and it was a difficult and sad goodbye. Here's a pic of the last hugs goodbye (in front of the P.F. Changs horse) before we parted ways.