Spent a few days last week at Shiloh. Laura and I had to go to the farm to take care of some business, and our 4-year-old grandson, Ivan, tagged along for his first multi-day stay in the cabin — without his mom and dad and older brother. We had a blast!
He spent a lot of time in the tree swing we installed the last time we were there, and he absolutely loved rides around the farm on the four-wheeler. After a couple of days, his mom and brother came to stay a day or two before we returned home, and the boys had a great time exploring the place together. They even went up to the loft of the cabin and watched movies or played games together on their tablets.
The last morning we were there, something unexpected and almost magical happened. An old, grey, stray of a beagle showed up. He was friendly, and didn’t seem to care much about dealing with adults. But he took to Ivan as if they were long lost friends; as if he had been raised from a pup alongside Ivan. They sort of just “fit,” if you know what I mean.
Ivan named the old chap Max, and within a few minutes they were inseparable. Max followed Ivan everywhere he went, and snuggled up to him whenever the opportunity presented itself. When the shadows grew long and it was time for us to go inside, Ivan went from window to window to see if he could see Max, who was still hanging around the front porch. Ivan stood at the “kitchen” window and shouted “Good night, Max,” with tears in his eyes. And I believe he dozed off to sleep with thoughts of his new friend floating through his young mind.
The next morning, as we were loading up to leave and head back home, there was Max, sitting outside waiting for his young friend — tail wagging and apparently so very glad to see Ivan. Max had scraped together some dried leaves and slept at the end of the picnic table just off the end of the porch. Pretty dedicated I’d say, especially given the brevity of their relationship.
Ivan was very sad that he was going to have to leave Max there (I am sure Max already had a home somewhere nearby) and it showed. And as I was carrying another load of things to the car, I saw the friends looking at each other. Max was sitting at the back of the car, leaning toward Ivan, and Ivan — with his backpack on a ready to go — was standing there with his shoulders drooping more than just a bit. Slowly, Ivan looked up at me and said, “I’ve already said goodbye to Max. I told him I’d see him next time. … Let’s go.” As he said it, I was almost sure I saw his lips quiver — just a little. And I may have perceived a tear in my own eye … Just maybe.
Watching the kids play at the farm and hearing them say how much they love it there touches my heart, as well as their grandmother’s, beyond description. It’s just wonderful.
Seeing Ivan so easily make a new friend, and then watching him have to say goodbye to Max, was a completely different issue, and quite unexpected.
The older I get it seems like these are the things that really are important in life. They are the heart of it all.