Staying at home because of the novel coronavirus pandemic has led to a lot of isolation and loneliness, but it has also created some beautiful and unlikely friendships.
Mary O’Neil, who turns 100 next month, knew the Olson family long before 2-year-old Benjamin was born. Although they were never very close, once the pandemic hit, Mary quickly became a part of their new routine.
At first, Mary would spend much of her time watching TV or playing a handheld electronic version of Yahtzee. But after a while, both families started drifting out to their backyards. That’s when everything changed for the better!
Their interactions were limited at first since Benjamin was so little. As he grew up and learned to walk and talk, something magical happened. Mary and Benjamin realized that they love to talk, play, and simply spend time together.
“He would run over to Mary when he would see her in the yard and he would bring her a ball,” said Benjamin’s mom, Sarah Olson. “And she created this game that we call Ping Ball, where Benjamin brings her a ball and Mary reaches her cane over our fence, flips it over, and kind of kicks it to Benjamin back and forth.”
The unlikely friendship was exactly what these two needed. Mary, who lost her husband 37 years ago, lives alone. Although her family comes to visit, they live out of state. Then there’s Benjamin, who was born into a world where making friends is tricky.
“He has never really had any other friends,” Sarah said.
Benjamin might not be an expert at making friends, but the relationship he forged with Mary happened so seamlessly that it’s clear these two were destined to become BFFs.
“We didn’t have to work on it at all, it just happened really naturally,” Sarah added.
Despite their 97-year age gap, Mary loves to play all kinds of games with Benjamin. From blowing bubbles to spraying water guns, these two love finding new ways to have fun!
No matter what they’re doing, what’s most important to Mary is that they’re doing it together.
“I missed them, missed seeing them when it was too cold for them to come out, when it was raining,” Mary said.
While there may be days when they can’t see each other, there’s no doubt that this friendship will continue. In fact, Mary thinks of Benjamin as another grandchild, even keeping photos of him and his baby brother in her house.
“Friendship can just happen so many different ways, I’m just really happy they were able to form this friendship — quarantine or not, pandemic or not,” Sarah said. “I’m happy they formed this friendship because it means a lot to her and it means a lot to him, too.”
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