I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating: Dierks and Cassidy Bentley are the nicest people on the planet.
I imagine their lives are a little busy right now. Baby Evie is almost five months old. Dierks is promoting Feel That Fire - out less than a month and already number one on the country album charts. Our TiVo memory is full of his recent television appearances. He's on the road touring with Brad Paisley. I think they've got a lot going on.
And yet, somehow, Bud got a package in the mail last week with a postmark from Nashville, Tennessee. I knew instantly who'd sent it, since I'd gotten an e-mail from Cassidy with a heads-up that it might arrive soon.
"Bud!" I called. "You have a package!"
He came running. "A package for me?"
"It's from Nashville, Tennessee. Do you know who lives in Nashville?"
"It's a friend of yours who has curly hair."
Bud tore into the package, then smiled the kind of smile that starts around the toenails, then radiates out through the top of the head.
He pulled out an 8x10 picture of his friend Dierks, taken back when his hair was closely cropped. It used to be the look (the only look) that Bud preferred, but Bud's come a long way since then and he now prefers Dierks' current look - the one he calls "the new curly hair." In fact, just last Saturday Bud asked his own hair stylist if she could give him "curly hair like Dierks Bentley," but when she started talking about perms, Bud quickly interrupted her and said "I'm just joking." (He was delighted to find, though, that because he pulled on his winter hat after leaving the salon with damp hair, his hair was sticking out at angles from his head later in the day, making him crow, "Just like Dierks!")
Bud loved the short-haired picture just the same, especially when we read what Dierks had written across it: "Bud, Still waiting on the new pictures w/ my longer hair!!! I'll get you one of those as soon as I get them! - Dierks Bentley"
Then Bud took a second item out of the package - a copy of Feel That Fire, the album he's been singing nonstop for weeks, with the same familiar scrawl across the front: "Bud, Thanks dude! Thanks for being my #1 fan!!! - Dierks Bentley"
And Bud really is his number one fan - though recently, it seems Bud's become a fan of the whole Bentley family. He got the People magazine country music edition for Valentine's Day, and since then he's been carrying it around, opened to the two-page photo spread of Dierks, Cassidy, and Evie. He dines with them, reads stories with them, and makes sure they're settled before he turns in for the night. Bud also insists that the woman who sings backing vocals on Feel That Fire's romantic "I Wanna Make You Close Your Eyes" is Cassidy. (It's not, of course, but I think Bud simply can't entertain the notion that Dierks is two-timing with someone else.) It even appears that, despite his general unease with babies, Bud has decided that Evie Bentley must be one of the "good ones."
He's planning on writing a thank-you note this weekend, and I'm fascinated to see what he'll come up with. As for me, I have not begun to find words to let the Bentleys know how touched I am by their kindness, how moved I am by their efforts to connect with a boy who can find it so hard to connect.
Bud struggles with interpersonal interaction. He shies away from social situations. But I will tell you this: when it comes to friendships, Bud sure knows how to pick them.