She was hired to help him. He was elderly, house-bound, stuck in a recliner.
She was young, a single mother, poor.
She and her son lived in a poor, rundown apartment with rodent issues. She worked two jobs to keep the refrigerator stocked.
On her first day, she rolled into the old man’s driveway on fumes. Her car had rust on the fenders, an axle that made noise.
The old man fell in love with her—it would’ve been hard not to.
Maybe it was her midnight skin, or the way she hummed when she worked. Maybe it was how she wrapped her woven hair in colorful homemade scarves.
She was a hard worker. She changed sheets, shopped for groceries, made breakfasts, lunches, and suppers.
She helped him use the bathroom. She eased him into showers. She scrubbed his backside. She combed his hair. She did his laundry. She folded his clothes while daytime TV gameshows ran in the background.
He told her more than he’d told anyone. He talked about old days. About a war he fought. About jobs he worked. About his late wife. About losing his only son.
She listened to him. No. She did more than listen. She heard him.
And when he’d cry—which happened often—she held him the same way she would’ve held her son.
He enjoyed her son. Jemiah was the boy’s name. Jemiah wore poor-boy clothes, his shoes had holes in them.
The child liked to read, and write make-believe stories on construction paper. He wrote a story about the old man. It had illustrations of a white-haired man in a magical recliner that could fly.
Jemiah titled it: “My Friend Anthony.”
The old man kept it on his nightstand. It had been a long time since anyone called him friend. He read through it time and again.
His end came early one evening.
She was leaving his house for her night-shift job—cleaning offices. Her purse was already slung over her shoulder. She wasn’t going to bid him goodbye since he was asleep. But something made her go check on him one more time.
She was in time to hear the old man release a giant breath. His jaw went slack. She touched his heart and said a prayer.
“Goodbye,” she said.
The funeral was a small one. A few friends, some distant family. He lived and died a lonely man.
She wore black. She covered her woven hair in a scarf she made from a shirt found in his closet. Her son wore starched clothes she’d bought and ironed earlier that day.
She sang a song for him, graveside. A hymn she remembered her mother singing long ago. It was haunting, but hopeful. Something about laying burdens down.
In the cemetery, she walked back toward her poor-person car. The one with rusty fenders.
She held Jemiah by the hand. Her eyes were cried dry.
A man in a business suit jogged after them. He called her by name.
She stopped walking. He handed her a manila envelope.
He smiled and said, “He must’ve really loved you.”
She opened it.
And just like that, she wasn’t poor anymore.
Bill Greer - October 4, 2017 1:05 pm
Don’t know where you get such wonderful stories, but don’t ever stop.
Esteban Rudman - October 4, 2017 1:14 pm
She wasn’t poor before she received her gift. She was a rich person with no money. Great story Sean.
CathyN - October 4, 2017 5:04 pm
Amen… And made the old man richer for knowing her and her boy.
Robert Turnage - November 11, 2017 12:54 pm
Anne - October 4, 2017 1:16 pm
Sean, we need your stories badly these days. It’s so much better to cry happy tears than sad, angry ones.
Beverly - October 4, 2017 1:21 pm
I was hoping for this ending
TN Lizzie - October 4, 2017 3:18 pm
Me too. I was holding my breath and reaching for a handkerchief I’ve named my Seankerchief. Niagra Falls indeed! 🙂
Catherine - October 4, 2017 1:51 pm
Such a beautiful love story. There are all kinds and they are all beautiful. Please continue to tell us about them.
Summer Hartzog - October 4, 2017 2:04 pm
Beautiful in every way
tracyfridley - October 4, 2017 2:33 pm
What a beautiful and touching story… ❤️
Diana - October 4, 2017 2:37 pm
All through your story, she was rich already—in kindness and compassion.
Carolyn Huggins - October 4, 2017 3:13 pm
Sean…………..you are the only writer who consistently makes me smile…..tears well up…chill bumps..You have a special style of your own; the short sentences grab the reader instantly, and the points of your story are grabbed instantly. You are blessed with a very special talent, my friend! Have a beautiful day!
Jody Herren - October 4, 2017 3:25 pm
Suzette Allen - October 4, 2017 3:29 pm
Niagra Falls here too. ?
Karen - October 4, 2017 3:31 pm
Thank you for this wonderful love story. What a blessing reading…
We never know the hearts of others, how they are effected in how we treat them. Gods”love” is perfect love. I appreciate your words so very much! Your stories are the best and I enjoy reading every day!!
Sandra Marrar - October 4, 2017 3:45 pm
What a beautiful story!
teachenglish67 - October 4, 2017 4:18 pm
“There are angels among us.” Thank you for your gift to all of us…….your stories, observations, and profound thoughts.
Sharron - October 4, 2017 4:22 pm
Beautiful story such warmth and love extraordinaire. This is one I hope is based in truth.
Wendy - October 4, 2017 5:40 pm
My apologies for being unoriginal but “ditto” to every comment above.
Judy - October 4, 2017 6:18 pm
wow…this brought chills. Not the bad chills – warm and fuzzy chills. Thank you for sharing.
Mark Nydell - October 4, 2017 7:16 pm
I am in tears right now. Thank you Sean for all your stories and the marvelous way you tell them! Even though I am crying, you bring a smile to my face each and every day.
Lois M Cockerill - October 4, 2017 7:48 pm
A task entered into with love has many rewards and sometimes those are as tangible as this. Sean when I think you have topped the mountain. you keep climbing higher. Thank you for the lift of heart you give.
Charles L.(Chuck) Scott II - October 5, 2017 12:16 am
Good day Sean,
What a wonderful piece, I currently have tears in my eyes and its hard to get a Broadcast journalist of 57 years to do that. I am 75, have all the bad things that can happen to our aging bodies. I told a friend a couple of days ago, its great to live longer but you become a bigger target. I hope a lady such as you have verbally painted might be around for me when I need her! Thank you!
Charles L. Scott II
Marion - October 5, 2017 12:37 am
Debra Martin - October 5, 2017 12:38 am
Michael Hawke - October 5, 2017 2:01 am
That would make a great novel.
Pamela McEachern - October 5, 2017 2:47 am
So many wonderful people are waiting on someone that will listen and care, we just need to show our compassion to open that person’s heart.
I had the honor of working in the medical field and more times than not people were so very generous with their hearts, when you listened. I miss my patients everyday. Thank you Sean, that was beautiful. Peace and Love from Birmingham
Ernie Tompkins - October 5, 2017 3:36 am
Enjoyed this very much. Help me with “Niagara Falls”…her tears?
Jack Quanstrum - October 5, 2017 5:25 am
All I can say is WOW! A stunner!
Martha Morrow - October 5, 2017 11:53 am
Sean, this old English teacher gives you an A+ every day. I don’t know of any other author who writes as you do; you have your own style, and it’s perfect for the human-interest stories you bring us every day. The mention of specific Southern locales is great; you’ve been pretty close to mine so I’ll keep hoping to run into you some day.
I love today’s story. Our father was tended by Hattie in his last days. We gave her his Oldsmobile after he was gone.
Sue Cronkite - October 5, 2017 1:02 pm
Wonderful, heartwarming story.
Blessings on you, Sean Dietrich.
Sue Riddle Cronkite
Janet Mary Lee - October 5, 2017 3:31 pm
Love takes many forms, doesn’t it? Love your writings every day!
Melodie - October 6, 2017 7:16 pm
Blessings from above. You can’t out-give, God. ♥