Our back doors were separated by sand. You couldn’t call it a backyard because there was nothing growing there, only scorpions and camel spiders with the occasional kangaroo mouse. But their house was really just an extension of my house, with sand for a hallway.
They were the people I went to when my parents weren’t home. Theirs was the house I went to when I wanted someone to play with. They were my adopted brothers and sisters. My adopted mom and dad. We were close. We were a family, a family we chose to create, not created by DNA.
So many memories from that time in my life are tied up together with them that it is hard to find one that doesn’t contain them. I remember catching scorpions and watching to see who would win the fight. I remember riding dirt bikes up down through the sand “yards” under the desert sky. I remember playing with Barbies and Madame Alexander dolls and telling elaborate stories that filled the day. I remember short-sheeting beds and laughing about reactions. I remember sharing a hammock and a good book.
Even today, thirty-six years later, they are still friends. They visit my mom and dad. Christmas cards arrive in the mail. Facebook updates and pictures tell their stories. Some friends in life fade away as times change. But some friends in life truly stay friends forever.
Yesterday, Mr. Tohill took his last breath. My heart hurts for what was and what was lost. My heart hurts for them. He was a great man who left a great hole and a family with great love. I am all the better for having had his life touch mine.