They taught me to maintain a stoic look, no matter what the situation. They taught me to dress for the occasion, to be prepared for rocky terrain, and to respect authority (to a point). They led by example, only speaking when asked to do so. They limited their speech, never responding in haste or with malice. They held the respect of anyone who met them. They were not the tallest people in the room, but they stood tall. They were not the strongest people in the room, but fitness was important to them. They were never on the best-dressed list, but they always dressed for the occasion.
They were loyal to me when I was but a child. They spent countless hours with me, never leading me astray, but caring only about doing the things I chose to do. They never argued with each other or with me, but they also never backed down. They armed themselves with everything necessary to defeat evil.
They were fearless, selfless, and determined. They represented freedom and strength.
Yet, when they were gone, I did not miss them. It was only years later that I realized their value in my life - the hours and days they devoted to my upbringing, the creativity they encouraged, the adventures they spawned, and the quiet moments we shared. They had seen me laugh, but they had endured my crying. They listened as I prayed. Somehow, they knew everything I was going through. And now, as I realize all that they meant to me, they are gone. I will never talk to them again.
I suppose I should be happy that I had them in my life at all. After all, we all tend to grow apart as we grow. We tend to spread out and we lose contact. But there is value in memory and in the gifts we share with one another in the moment. I just wish my mom had never sold those G.I. Joes in the garage sale, because there is also value in vintage toys!