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.”

24 comments

  1. Pamela McEachern - December 1, 2018 7:07 am

    Tears and a beautiful story of friendship and love. This one got my heart. 💗

    Reply
  2. Susan Swiderski - December 1, 2018 11:38 am

    Dang! You sure do know how to rip the hear of this old gal. This is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. (sniff)

    Reply
  3. Jean - December 1, 2018 12:09 pm

    What a sweet story..and yes, I am crying. Many of your stories do that to me….

    Reply
  4. Brenda Hill - December 1, 2018 12:15 pm

    How precious to have such a friend, to be such a friend! Thank you for a beautiful story.

    Reply
  5. Steven P Bailey - December 1, 2018 12:34 pm

    Beautiful.

    Reply
  6. Marilyn - December 1, 2018 12:38 pm

    This reminded me of the elderly lady I cared for as a student nurse. She was an inspiration to me and my first daughter was named after her. A lot can be learned from those we surround ourselves. Another touching story from you Sean….

    Reply
  7. Janet Badon Stephens - December 1, 2018 1:00 pm

    Yes, tears in my eyes again. Thank you for this. You have a rare gift.

    Reply
  8. Bev deJarnette - December 1, 2018 2:01 pm

    We are again blessed by your stories. A precious friendship ❤️ Thank you, Sean.

    Reply
  9. Kristine Wehrheim - December 1, 2018 2:07 pm

    Family doesn’t have to be your blood relative- this was beautiful.

    Reply
  10. Carol - December 1, 2018 2:21 pm

    Beautiful!
    Thank you. In a lot of ways I’m like her now, except I love children and have my own and grandchildren and great grandchildren, but I never see them. Some I never hear from , right in my own backyard ! Too busy I know !
    But I miss them and love them , I hope they know how much I miss them. They quite asking me to go places because it’s hard for me to get ready. All I need is their help because I really want to go !!
    I pray other children read this and know , we’re still in here just give us a hand to get up and be with you or come visit or maybe call!!
    Love you!

    Reply
  11. Nancy Wright - December 1, 2018 2:25 pm

    What a sweet, special story! Thank you, Sean,

    Reply
  12. Edna B. - December 1, 2018 3:09 pm

    This is beautiful. Blood does not make a family, love does. You have an awesome day my friend, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  13. Jack Darnell - December 1, 2018 3:27 pm

    Well Edna said it very well. So I am in the Amen corner! You done good! (once again)

    Reply
  14. Ginger McPherson - December 1, 2018 4:27 pm

    Dang Sean! I was ready to go out and now I have to fix my makeup!
    A beautiful story of friendship, love and family. We cant choose our family, but we can choose our friends.

    Reply
  15. Carol Pepper - December 1, 2018 6:46 pm

    Sean, I cried through this one…not a bad thing to do. Tears cleanse the heart!
    Thank you for another memorable story.

    Reply
  16. Shelton Armour - December 1, 2018 10:21 pm

    Great story! What good fortune the boy and old woman enjoyed. I saw the movie, “Green Book” today…everyone needs to see it. It’s that good. It’s a story like you would tell, Sean.

    Reply
  17. Suzanne B - December 1, 2018 11:27 pm

    Beautiful! I love how you shine a light on the kindness in this world.

    Reply
  18. Eiizabeth - December 2, 2018 1:57 am

    Beautifully written, Sean. This made me cry.

    Reply
  19. Mary Ellen Hall - December 2, 2018 11:07 am

    BEAUTIFUL SEAN!!! THANK YOU!!!
    Mary Ellen❤🎄

    Reply
  20. Kathy Coxwell - December 2, 2018 4:17 pm

    Beautiful story beautifully written! Thank you.
    Kathy

    Reply
  21. Marylin - December 3, 2018 3:08 pm

    Another sweet story, and it made me cry, too. Thanks, Sean for reminding us to love one another.

    Reply
  22. Edy - December 3, 2018 8:06 pm

    Beautiful!

    Reply
  23. Madge Cooper - December 4, 2018 10:07 pm

    So so sweet .

    Reply
  24. Mike Stamps - December 8, 2018 2:32 pm

    Neat story Sean. Brought a tear Great story about unlikely friendships

    Reply

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