There’s an old saying that goes, “Good fences make good neighbors.” With so many folks forced to stay at home during the pandemic, some are happy to report that good fences can also make good friends.
In Minneapolis, the Olson family lives next door to 99-year-old Mary O’Neill.
Although Mary has an adult daughter in the area who visits once a week, with the rest of her relatives scattered, for the most part, the pandemic left the soon-to-be centenarian in seclusion.
But as lockdown wore on, Mary managed to forge a special friendship with one of her neighbors—Benjamin Olson, age 2.
Over time, Mary watched through the chain-link as Benjamin learned to walk, talk, and eventually run and play. Despite the huge differences in their ages, Benjamin was drawn to his elderly neighbor, delighting in her presence.
Between the two, they developed a game they could play over the fence. Ben would pass her a ball and she’d hit it back to him with her cane.
While others might remark at the 97-year gap between the two pals, when Ben sees Mary, he simply sees a friend, not a number.
Although the pair’s special affinity definitely scores high on the cuteness factor, Sarah and Mary’s adult daughter believe the relationship has been a lifeline that’s kept the elderly woman going through the long period of isolation.
“She’s just Mary, or in the past couple of days, he’s been calling her ‘Mimi.’ We’ll be playing inside and he’ll go, ‘Mimi? Mimi?’ and we’ll go outside and look for [her],” Benjamin’s mom Sarah Olson told CBS News. “She’ll call out, ‘Hey Benjamin!’ when she sees him, and it’s just been so cute to watch it.”
As pandemic restrictions have lifted, Mary and Benjamin’s bond continues to blossom on both sides of the fence—only now, the gates can be opened.
Benjamin joins Mary on her back steps to play games, blow bubbles, and enjoy the activities that bring joy to both the young and the young at heart.
“Friendship can just happen so many different ways,” Sarah told CBS. “I’m just really happy they were able to form this [one]—quarantine or not, pandemic or not. I’m happy…because it means a lot to her and it means a lot to him too.”
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In August, when Mary celebrates her 100th birthday, it’s a good bet Benjamin and his family will be there to help her blow out the candles and make a wish.
But we’re guessing the one thing she won’t be wishing for is a best friend.
Benjamin’s already got one that covered.