The noises and giggles coming from the far back reaches of my mini-van were hilarious. Nine-year-old little boy hilarious. My fart noise is funnier than your fart noise tear-inducing hilarious.
I couldn't help glancing in the rearview mirror every few minutes at my two little passengers. They couldn't be more different - one hulking and big looking quite older than his nine years, and one small and thin with missing teeth looking a little younger than his nine.
Seemingly unlikely friends, but actually the best.
I remember Knox's first best friend quite well . . . because it was Joey. From the time he could even recognize faces, Knox absolutely adored Joey and vice versa. Wherever Baby Knox was Joey had to be - even if it was stuck under the couch. It was so cute to watch how Joey took care of him, taught him, and brought him along on all his crazy ideas and mischief.
And then one day, all of that just stopped.
After that seizure, after that ambulance ride, it was gone. Mommy came home from the hospital with a different person. Someone who had been changed so much that he was, in fact, just gone.
Knox was just shy of four years old when Joey was diagnosed with cancer. That's the age that Edgie is now. Edgie worships the ground Knox walks on, and Knox is so good to him. I would say that I can't imagine what would happen if something changed that, but unfortunately I can. It would be confusing and heartbreaking and life impacting.
I will never know the full scope of how Joey's cancer and death affected his brothers. I can hear it in their voices when they say they miss Joey. I can see it in the occasional tears they shed. I can sense it in their actions, like staying in the car when we are at the cemetery (Knox never gets out of the car).
It's even palpable in the shifting family roles. We lost our oldest son. The balance has now shifted. It couldn't shift to Slim. With his ADHD and autism, we are still working on responsibility and trust with him. So, the natural shift fell onto Knox. The kid who has always been physically bigger than his years. The kid who does what he is told. The kid we can trust to get something done.
The kid who was not built for that role and probably resents it. The kid who really has middle child tendencies and mostly just wants to fade into the background.
The kid who probably wishes sometimes that things could go back to the way they were before.
Hanging out with his best friend from school affords him that opportunity. Recently, they were together for 36 glorious hours - a two-day camp at our zoo and an overnight at our house. I didn't make Knox do any of his chores during this time and I didn't ask him to watch his three-year-old brother.
But I did stand back and watch what happened.
He was happy and goofy and silly and thought of games and crazy activities to do and even let his little brother hang out with them.
He was heart happy down to his very middle child core.
Even Hubby said he has never seen Knox like that. And it makes me alternately sad and happy at the same time.
Sad of course when I set five kid places at the table rather than the usual four. Sad to see five little boys all going 'round the buffet gathering their food because, after all, that's the way it should be every night.
But happy, so happy that Knox has found a friend with whom he can connect. They are not 100% exactly alike - not at all actually - but there's enough of a spark that keeps them together.
Knox went to his friend's birthday party a couple months ago, and I stole a glance at the thank you note he sent to Knox. The last line said, " Thank you for being my best friend."
Yes, indeed, thank goodness for friendship. It makes me heart happy down to my grieving mama core.