A two-year-old boy has become best friends with his 99-year-old neighbor after months of quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic led to them having regular meetups at the fence that separates their homes.
Mary O’Neill, a widow from Minneapolis, Minnesota, struck up an unlikely friendship with Benjamin Olson, the toddler next door, at a time when most of the world was isolated from their friends and extended families.
‘For more than a year, [Benjamin] didn’t see other kids. He didn’t interact with anyone except our family and Mary,’ the boy’s mom, Sarah Olson, told Today Parents. ‘They ended up forming an incredibly strong bond.’
Aww! Mary O’Neill, a widow from Minneapolis, Minnesota, struck up an unlikely friendship with Benjamin Olson, the toddler next door, during the pandemic
Heartwarming: Benjamin didn’t see other kids for more than a year, and Mary is his first best friend, according to the boy’s mother, Sarah Olson
Bonding: Initially, Mary would just wave to Benjamin from inside, but then she started stepping outside to say hello. The greetings eventually evolved into meetings at their shared fence
Benjamin’s friendship also brings great joy to Mary, who will turn 100 in December. She lost her husband 37 years ago and enjoys the little boy’s company. Her own grandchildren and great-grandchildren all live out of state.
Initially, she would just wave to him from behind a window, but then she started stepping outside to say hello to the toddler. The greetings eventually evolved into regular meetings at the fence that separates their backyards.
During their backyard visits, they came up with their own special game they’ve dubbed ‘cane ball.’ Benjamin will kick a ball to Mary, and she’ll use her cane to hit it back to him.
In the warmer months, they like to sit on her steps and blow bubbles together. As a testament to their bond, Mary gave Benjamin a box of toy trucks that belonged to her late son.
Precious gift: Mary enjoys Benjamin’s company, and she even gave him a box of toy trucks that belonged to her late son
Company: Mary, who will turn 100 in December, lost her husband 37 years ago. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren all live out of state
‘Sometimes he’ll get up and grab a piece of sand or a rock and give it to me as a gift,’ Mary told Today. ‘He makes me feel good.’
Mary recently opened up about her friendship with Benjamin during an interview with NBC affiliate KARE 11, saying he and his little brother are ‘the closest thing to grandchildren I have around here.’
The widower added that she missed seeing Benjamin when the weather prohibited them from meeting outside. The confession brought Benjamin’s mom Sarah to tears.
‘When she said she misses him, I had never known that. I’m so happy they have each other,’ Sarah said as she wiped tears from her eyes.
Like family: Mary recently told NBC affiliate KARE 11 that Benjamin and his little brother are ‘the closest thing to grandchildren I have around here’
Heart-wrenching: The widower confessed that she missed seeing Benjamin when the weather prohibited them from meeting outside
Special segment: Sarah shared behind-the-scenes photos of KARE 11’s interview with Mary and Benjamin on her Facebook page earlier this month
The mom explained that their neighbor is ‘fiercely independent’ and ‘doesn’t really show her cards.’
‘So I got really emotional when I heard her say that she missed Benjamin on the days when it was too cold or rainy to go outside,’ she said.
And Mary is just as important to Benjamin.
‘Mary really is Benjamin’s best friend,’ Sarah said. ‘She’s his first best friend.’
Sarah shared behind-the-scenes photos of KARE 11’s interview with Mary and Benjamin on her Facebook page earlier this month, encouraging people to tune in when it aired.
‘Spoiler: I cried,’ she wrote. ‘I had no idea how much Benjamin meant to her.’