This is Grace and Anna. Anna is Grace’s first best friend. They’ve known each other for half of their lives. When you’re 4 and 5, that’s sort of a big deal.  They’ve been through birthdays, holidays, backyard BBQs, being drug all over this island by their mommies, playdates that ended in tears over one or both not sharing, the addition of one baby sister and the evolution of another into a force to be reckoned with. They even made it through Grace’s bald phase.

Anna’s Daddy is an Air Force dentist. He got orders to Grand Forks, ND. That’s right, take a minute and let it sink in. Oahu. To North Dakota. In February. Grace is really sad. She’s known kids that have moved before, she knows it’s because the Air Force (or Army, or Navy . . .) needs their daddy (or mommy) somewhere else. But Anna is different. Anna was Grace’s first real big girl friend. The one she saw outside of school. The one who lived just across the loop and she could play with whenever. It breaks my heart to see her so sad, but I am grateful for the reminder of how important friendships are.

This is Anna’s mom Lauren. She’s my best Air Force friend. Lauren and I met because our kids couldn’t be quiet at the newcomer’s briefing. Turns out that Lauren and her husband Marcus had just moved here from Minot, ND, where Marcus worked in the dental clinic with Kirk’s best friend from high school, Murray Thompson. It’s a small world after all . . .

I’ve never been a big believer in fate, or the universe working in mysterious ways. But I’ll tell you what. Something dropped Lauren in my lap, in my neighborhood and in my life that day. The universe must have known I was going to need someone easy-going, someone willing to take late night walks just to share an hour out of the house, someone whose door I could knock on at 11 p.m. and leave Grace with so I could go have Janie, someone to remind me the Air Force isn’t all that bad. Someone to be a wonderful friend through this adventure they call being stationed in Hawaii. Her friendship has been a real blessing in my life.

So Kropf family, thanks to all of you for being part of our lives for the past two and a half years. Good luck in the great white north, and stay warm up there! In this age of Skype, Facebook and text messaging I know Lauren’s quick wit is never far away. But we all know your life is different when you can’t see someone face to face anytime you want. When you can’t just run to lunch at the enlisted club or gab along the Harbor path. So things here will be a little quieter. But hell, it’s paradise so we’ll just have to soldier through it (wink wink).