When 4-year-old Nora Wood struck up a conversation with 82-year-old Dan at the grocery store, she had no idea that she'd started a lifelong friendship.
"Hi, old person!" Nora said. "It's my birfday!"
Before Nora's mom, Tara, could shush her daughter for calling the man "old person," he replied, "Well, hello little lady! And how old are you today?"
The two became fast friends, the old man's face going from "furrow-browed" to delighted in mere seconds.
"I pulled out my iPhone and they posed together," Tara later wrote. "She placed her soft hand on top of his soft hand. He wordlessly stared at her with twinkling eyes as she kept his hand in hers and studied his skinny veins and weathered knuckles. She kissed the top of his hand and then placed it on her cheek. He beamed. I asked his name, and he told us to call him ‘Dan.’"
"They hugged again and we walked away. Norah watched him until he was out of view. I’d be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t a weepy mess after their encounter."
After posting the story to her Facebook page, a reader who recognized Mr. Dan said his wife passed away in March, and that she was certain he was touched by Nora's company.
Tara asked for his phone number, called him, and now she and Norah stop by Mr. Dan's house every week. After their first visit, Tara said Mr. Dan had dressed up, gotten a haircut and shaved: "He looked ten years younger." He set out a child's coloring table, crayons and blank paper and asked Norah to draw him pictures for his refrigerator. They ate chicken nuggets. He wiped ketchup from her cheek. He spent 10 minutes cutting the thorns off a rose growing in his yard, which Norah now keeps (completely dried up) in a resealable bag under her pillow.
“He said that he hadn’t had an uninterrupted night of sleep for the past several months,” Tara said. “Sadness and anxiety had made his mind wander at night, but since meeting Norah, he has slept soundly every single night. He said she healed him.”
Tara even invited Mr. Dan to their Thanksgiving dinner.
"He’s part of our family now," Tara wrote. "Whether he likes it or not, he’s been absorbed into my family of nine and just like Norah said, 'We’re gonna love him all up.'"
“If I didn’t have anything else to do the rest of my life,” Mr. Dan said, “I have her to love.”
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Check out the photos of Halloween with Mr. Dan that Tara posted to Facebook: