I stood in the doorway of my next-door neighbors' house Tuesday morning, saying goodbye to a family of friends as they prepared to move across the country, and suddenly lacked all the important things that should be said in such word-worthy moments.
That's the trouble with people that call themselves writers. They're often better on the page than in person. Ask anyone who knows me.
But, we also get the chance to say on paper what we could not in person.
It started in a doorway, and ends there too. The first time we met, you and your very pregnant bride came a-knockin' not long after we moved in. You brought warm cookies and warmer welcomes to the neighborhood. We thought we'd wandered into an episode of "Leave it to Beaver." That just doesn't happen in L.A.
Thankfully, you weren't the Cleavers.
We already had two little ones, and over the next few years, we saw you bring two of your own into the world. Two of the most precious, precocious and perfect babes we've ever seen.
How we will miss seeing their smiles as you hold them high to look over the backyard fence so they could see what ruckus mayhem my kids were making. I remember when you cut a gate into that fence so we wouldn't have to walk all the way around our houses to get to each others' backyards. The shortest distance between friends, as it turns out, is a hole in the fence.
How we will miss seeing Z and Pebbles, your boy and girl, charging down the sidewalk screaming with joy, raining delight wherever they journey. Sadly, the next time we see them they won't be who they are right now. Time will take its toll, as it inevitably does. They'll still be full of merriment and whimsy, I am sure.
But it will be different.
In Z we already see the makings of a fine man. Adventurous, charming, piercingly insightful, confident in a stormy world and ready for any challenge. Like his father.
In Pebbles there is her mother. A gleeful pixie has lost her way and ended up in our world by mistake. Spreading happiness with a smile because she knows no other way. Vibrant, kind, trusting and disarming. This world has no idea how lucky it is to have both these ladies of light.
Sure, we'll keep some mementos to remember you by. Those rugs go quite nicely in our house, and the vacuum cleaner is much appreciated. Thanks also for the flee shampoo, ant killer and baking soda deodorizer. Since you never had a dog, I won't ask what the shampoo was for.
But the neighborhood just won't be the same without you.
You won't come strolling around the Birds of Paradise hedge, coffee in hand before noon, wine glass thereafter. The regular neighborhood meetings on our front lawn will be noticeably absent one very special, loved family.
Whoever moves in to your house may sit on the front porch deck that you built. They may even strum a guitar like you would, adding a subtle, fitting soundtrack to a summer's night. But they won't be you.
It will be quite some time before my kids wander next door unaccompanied, and I am comforted knowing they are at your house. Because it won't be you in that house anymore.
He, too, may have grace with power tools, some suggestions on syntax or computer repair. But it will take time before I let him borrow my truck for a Saturday morning hardware store run.
This, indeed, marks the end of a chapter in life.
Times like this bode change; a disturbance that ripples through everyone in a circle of friends. Like graduating high school or college. Or changing jobs. You know things will never be the same.
It will soon change for all of us. I don't know how. But it will.
We hope to come visit you in the Big Apple. But in case that takes longer than hoped, we'll always have Facebook.
And until we meet again, I'll take good care of the Shop-Vac and Sawzall you let me babysit.
There will always be a worn out spot on our lawn for you; a brown, matted patch with your name on it, waiting for you guys to rest upon.
And now, here I stand in your doorway, looking over a life stuffed into boxes, stealing final hugs, and all I can say is, "I hope you know how I feel about you."
You guys will be missed. Dearly.
Goodbye, neighbor. Goodbye, friend.
PATRICK CANEDAY is author of "Crooked Little Birdhouse: Random Thoughts on Being Human." Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more at www.randomthoughtsonbeinghuman.com.