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Girl & “Gruff” Neighbor Become Unlikely Friends, But His Final Gift Touches Her Heart.

In childhood I felt that need to possess what so many of my friends had nearby — a grandparent.

When we finally settled in one locale and purchased a home in which to dwell, the gruff neighbor, two doors away, had the reputation of being the terror of the neighborhood youth. A timid child anyway, I was intimidated by the tales of woe the veteran neighborhood tykes imparted to me concerning this monster. For fear that I would be cut down with the scythe that hung in his garage, I was forever careful to see that I did not let one minute bit of my bike stray onto his lawn, trim one blade of his grass with my jump rope, or toss the ball which could land in his yard.

As I was pulling weeds in our yard one day, a chore I had been assigned, a voice neither harsh nor soft, but the kind of voice which invites friendship resounded in my ear.

“That is Charlie grass you are pulling. If you grab the base of it and pull back it will run until the plant runs out. It was named for me because I am so tough.” And he laughed in a deep mellow laugh.

I was eleven when my friendship with Mr. S. began. It blossomed in many ways. I would go assist our neighbor boy in mowing his yard. We would just sit with lemonade and talk.


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Three years later, on the eve of my confirmation, Mr. S. died.

I had strep throat and was just well enough to go to the confirmation service, but that afternoon I had a relapse and was unable to go with my mom to visit his widow. My mom slipped over to see her and returned with my confirmation gift. It was a wooden windmill Mr. S. had constructed for me to set in the back yard to watch the wind direction. I had so loved the one that he had in his yard. It became even more precious when I learned that he died while completing it for me. The windmill was a symbol for me to follow that wind which the force of the Holy Spirit provides. God would blow me in many directions.

In a few weeks I went to visit Mrs. S. She had not really been my friend as she was crippled with arthritis and did not come outside when I would sit with Mr. S. But now that he was not there I went in the house more and more often. She had grown up in Wales, had traveled everywhere in the world, and had a delightful way about her. She also possessed a brilliant mind. Her eyes, already bad, grew steadily worse, and I would go to read my literature books to her since she really enjoyed the classics I was required to read for school. It made homework a pleasure. She always kept mint tea for herself, and I learned to drink it with a spot of milk as she did. And so our friendship bloomed from a mutual sorrow.


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It was on the eve of my high school graduation that Mrs. S. gave me a gift. She pulled it out of the box she kept on the coffee table beside her. I had watched her open that box many times and pull out holy cards for me to read. She had some beautiful ones she had collected since she was a wee lass. Some had been Mr. S’s. Instead, she pulled out a set of rosary beads. Little silver hearts formed the beads.

Mrs. S. handed them to me and explained, “Mr. S. gave these to me when we wed over forty years ago. I have used them since we married as a symbol of our love. Now we have no issue, but you have been a part of the symbol of our love. We have both shared with you many good and bad times. As a sign of the love which will continue through you, I want to give these to you.”

Tears welled in my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. I was so fortunate to have had these “grandparents”.


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That fall I went away to college and was only able to see Mrs. S. on vacations. Two years later she suffered a stroke that left her totally bedridden. When she died, she came to consciousness briefly, after being in a long coma, and told a niece that she hoped that I would continue to grow in grace. One of her last thoughts was of me.

I have had the beads for over twenty years now. There have been dark times in my life when I needed that reminder of God’s presence in my life – the death of one child, the chronic illness of another, and a hearing loss with yet another. I have used those rosary beads thousands of times. If I can not feel like praying when I get them out, I can just look at them and plead for the ability to be as good natured all my life as both Mr. and Mrs. S. were in their old age. As crippled and blind as Mrs. S. became, I do not ever remember her complaining about it. Both were people whose final work and words were of someone else. The thought of the lives that they lived in nature and love of other people sustain me sometimes to do things for others that I do not really want to do. I have let their example and memory be part of the breeze that blows about me and guides me on to a better life.


This story was submitted by Dorinda Hickey. If you have an uplifting story we would love to hear about it! Share it with us here.