Posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken

I love the expression, "Children have imaginary friends. Adults have imaginary enemies." I honestly don't remember having any imaginary friends when I was a kid, but my daughters certainly did, and other parents have told me great stories about their kids' imaginary friends.

I have been thinking about this because my younger daughter (in her 20s, working and putting herself through college) has a friend in need. If the guy didn't have bad luck, he wouldn't have any luck at all. His marriage is down the tubes, his wife sounds like a major jerk, he works two jobs, is in the National Guard,National_guard was in Iraq and will be going back there, and we won't even get into the problems with his soon-to-be-girlfriend. (Really, there is a lot to be said for stability. Trust me.) There are a couple of kids involved, toddlers really, which makes it all pretty sad. My daughter says he's a really nice guy; when he was living in his truck, he took to dropping by here for a shower and an occasional night's sleep on the couch.

Just when it looked as if things couldn't get any worse, the truck died, leaving him homeless. Since my husband and I spend a lot of time summers at a little trailer in Maine, we aren't around to keep an eye on things. Our daughters are trustworthy, their friends are nice, and there haven't been any blow-out parties while we're away.

So we didn't give it much thought when Daughter Number Two called and said her friend would be staying over (she said "crashing", which I hadn't heard since college.) Okay, no problem. We were reminded to close the bedroom doors and to wear clothing when parading around the house, no matter what the hour. Okay, still no problem.

Clearly we raised her right. This in-your-face me-me-me kid is generous to her friends. She sleeps on the pullout living room couch with up to four cats while he "crashes" in her room with the comfy double bed. As the days (and nights) pass and the friend appears to be more and more of a fixture, I have noticed that she is more cooperative, keeping the house neater, running the vacuum, cleaning cat litter boxes, washing dishes. If this is what it takes, she can bring home anyone she wants.

The curious thing is, I have never seen this guy. My husband and my other daughter have met him and assure me he is real, but I still call him the "imaginary friend". When I took some stuff into her bedroom, I noted that there is a pile of khaki-colored duffelDuffle_bag bags of the Army issue type in one corner; they must belong to the fellow, because we only own one such bag and it's in our bedroom at the moment.

My daughter and her friend come in late from work (usually when everyone else is in bed), have something to eat, and get some sleep so he can go to his early job and she can get to class. With his vehicular challenges, she is letting him drive her precious car, while she borrows one of ours. (Good thing everyone knows how to drive a stick shift.)

I'm not saying the arrangement is looking permanent, but he is receiving occasional official mail at our post office box, and today the FedEx dude brought him a package here. He has a couple of cases of beer in the garage and leftover takeout Chinese in the fridge. And I still haven't laid eyes on him.

As another saying goes, "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." My daughter and I are often told how much alike we are, and I will admit to taking home the occasional waif when I was her age--guys who couldn't get home for Christmas or some other holiday. Actually, the last time I did that was in 1969. We've been married 37 years now.

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