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…