Two Friends

By his early twenties, he was helping care for her. He called to check on her often. He grocery shopped. He brought in the mail. He carried her to appointments. 

His mother died when he was six. His childhood was a lonely one. He’d been raised by his father—a man who worked too much.

No brothers. No sisters. He was a quiet child. So quiet, kids at school wondered if he even existed.

He got older and became a quiet fourteen-year-old. He had a hard time making friends. Most nights you could find him alone at home after school, eating fast food before a glowing TV screen.

She was his neighbor. She was old and feeble, with an oxygen machine. She lived in an ancient home and she stayed inside it.

She was not friendly. In fact, she was downright hateful. Most people avoided her. Especially kids. She would chew up children and spit them out.

She spent her days stuck in an easy chair, staring at windows, watching people walk the sidewalk.

One day, she and the boy started to talk.

She was on her back porch, with her nurse when she saw him pass her.

“Get up here,” she said to him, puffing a cigarette. “Introduce yourself to me.”

And, even though nobody saw it coming, their friendship blossomed. He opened like a camellia. He talked to her about everything. He spoke about life, about day-to-day things, and what he’d seen in the news.

They became fast friends. They stayed that way through the years.

Her lawn was overgrown; he’d cut it. The siding on her home was rotting; he’d repair it. She taught him to love books. He taught her to be nice.

By his early twenties, he was helping care for her. He called to check on her often. He grocery shopped. He brought in the mail. He carried her to appointments.

And each year for Christmas, he bought her a balsam fir. A live one. He’d place it in her living room, front and center, decorated.

Her face would grow fifty-years younger when she saw the lights. Little lights have strange effects over people.

And each year: gifts under the tree—wrapped and everything. Some from her. Some from him. They took turns pretending like they were a family.

Once, she’d even written him a card:

“I have not a child,
You have not a mother,
Maybe this year,
We’ll adopt one another.”

And on her last year alive, they spent a nice Christmas together. They ate until they were sick, then stared at a fireplace until she fell asleep. He helped her into bed.

A few nights later, he was at work when he got a call. She was having chest pains. He dialed 911. She passed in the ambulance. There were no dramatic last words, no final hand-squeeze.

He arranged the funeral. And on the day of her service he stood before a small congregation and stuttered sweet words about two unlikely friends. A boy, and an elderly woman.

He stood at the graveside when they lowered her. He thanked her. He said goodbye.

And he will visit that grave this year—just like every year. This year, however, he will bring his children to visit for the first time. Because this year, his two kids are old enough to ask about his old friend.

And he’ll tell them a story a lot like what I just told you.

Except when he tells it, he will call her “mother.”

26 comments

  1. Gwen McGill - November 27, 2017 7:21 pm

    I love this story.

    Reply
  2. Connie - November 27, 2017 7:46 pm

    You don’t have to be “blood” to be family. Beautiful story of love. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. Cindy Bailey - November 27, 2017 7:52 pm

    Little lights do have strange effects! Wonderful story!

    Reply
  4. JANE HUMPHREY - November 27, 2017 8:14 pm

    Beautiful story

    Reply
  5. Patricia Schmaltz - November 27, 2017 8:19 pm

    Ahhhhh… crying again!
    Thank you.

    Reply
  6. Steve Welch - November 27, 2017 8:25 pm

    Damn you Sean Dietrich, you have made me cry again. That is three times now in seven days. My paralegal said you make some of this stuff up. Quite frankly, I do not believe that is true. Even if it is, please do not stop. I need to keep believing that people in the world are basically good. You have a gift for discovering their stories.

    Thank you my friend.

    Reply
  7. Linda Chipman - November 27, 2017 8:41 pm

    Beautiful store. Thank you. And little lights do have strange effects.

    Reply
  8. lemerle birdsong - November 27, 2017 9:34 pm

    Such a sweet and touching story. I loved it, it really touched my heart.

    Reply
  9. Sheila Allen - November 27, 2017 9:43 pm

    You are an alchemist. You have discovered and are perfecting the art transmuting life’s bitterness into the elixir of life with your perspective. Your words have the magical power to transform the common and universal hurts in this life into experiences of great value. You take bitter and spin sweet. Thank You

    Reply
    • Janet Lee - November 30, 2017 7:00 am

      Sheila, beautifully said, as well.

      Reply
  10. Wendy - November 27, 2017 10:36 pm

    We’ve all heard that opposites attract, but it doesn’t always mean in a romantic way. Sean reminds us that deep & abiding friendships can span generations.

    Beautiful story, Sean!

    Reply
  11. Marisa Franca @ All Our Way - November 27, 2017 11:00 pm

    Life is strange yet somehow there’s a magnet somewhere that draws people together. To satisgy a need. Maybe? To help with the loniless? Without a doubt! Perhaps it was their two guardian angels plotting to get them together. I like to think that.

    Reply
  12. Susie Munz - November 27, 2017 11:48 pm

    Great, heartwarming story, Sean. Thank you! Hugs to you and Jamie.

    Reply
  13. Pat Byers - November 28, 2017 12:02 am

    ditto of Sheila Allen’s comment. You have a special gift. You do transform the world into sweet. thank you.

    Reply
  14. Lucretia - November 28, 2017 12:05 am

    Sean, on of the most beautiful Christmas Stories ever. Thank you.

    Reply
  15. violet t robinson - November 28, 2017 1:20 am

    i like your story about the ederly woman and the boy

    Reply
  16. Tish Gressang - November 28, 2017 1:33 am

    Such a wonderful story to tell at the beginning of the holidays… I have tears in my eyes as I finish reading this, truly beautiful.

    Reply
  17. Jody - November 28, 2017 3:10 am

    Thank you for a wonderful story. Love is transforming.

    Reply
  18. Pamela McEachern - November 28, 2017 4:39 am

    This reminds me of another wonderful story, written in a book is “no man is a failure who has friends.” We can certainly be blessed by our chosen families, friends. Thanks Sean
    Peace and Love from Birmingham

    Reply
  19. Sharon Allemang - November 28, 2017 4:59 am

    Wow, it gave me goosebumps while reading it!!Sean,your writing touches me like nothing I have read before!! And I’ve been reading my whole life(now 75yrs old).. Thank you so much, & please keep writing everyday & I’ll keep reading every piece you write.. Deal? Sharon Allemang

    Reply
  20. Rolfe Hunt - November 28, 2017 12:55 pm

    Another story of great worth. I look forward to seeing and hearing you at Music at Saint Andrew UMC in a few weeks.

    Reply
  21. Ava - November 28, 2017 3:16 pm

    Everyone thinks you are wonderful, but I think you are secretly mean. You sit down every day and write something to deliberately make me cry. And yet, I keep coming back for more. Love your work.

    Reply
  22. Mary Ellen Hall - November 28, 2017 10:00 pm

    SWEET, BEAUTIFUL STORY, SEAN!!
    THANKS FOR SHARING IT-I LOVE ALL your stories!!
    You’re SO VERY BLESSED with the talent of “writing!!”

    Reply
  23. Jo Brooks - November 28, 2017 11:20 pm

    He made her a good mother. She made him into a good man. Thank you!

    Reply
  24. Barbara Mc - November 29, 2017 4:46 pm

    Precious!

    Reply
  25. Elaine Karrh - November 30, 2017 10:24 pm

    Tears again. You have that effect on me.

    Reply

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