When Norah Met Mr. Dan
October 25, 2016 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Little Norah Wood met 82-year-old Mr. Dan on her 4th birthday while shopping at the grocery store with her mother. When Norah requested a special birthday photo with Mr. Dan a few aisles later, her mom obliged (and thankfully, so did Mr. Dan!). It was the start of a beautiful, and very healing, friendship.
posted by Hermione Granger (19 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Cute story! Thanks!
posted by rhizome at 8:25 PM on October 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this post, what a wonderful story.

It's funny, as I was reading the article, I had two parallel trains of thought: a grown-up, compassionate one (yes, this post raises important points about social isolation in the elderly, and wow, it sure does look like this friendship has made a difference for Mr. Dan, I wonder what programs are here locally....); and another, cynical reaction (aw, that's sweet, but wow, odds are that Norah is going to learn about death at an early age if she's 4 and her best friend is 82).

As I tried to consider the first and ignore the second, I realized that, of course, they're connected. In my experience, non-old people's discomfort with old people has a lot to do with fear of death, not wanting to have to face mortality and loss, and so on. To be blunt, not only do old people remind all of the rest of us that we're all going to get old and die (if we're lucky--otherwise, just the second part), but if you do form a close emotional bond, your dear friend might, well, die on you.

And if one doesn't really pause and reflect on what emotions, feelings, and/or instincts drive our collective social avoidance of the elderly, we will continue to isolate them to protect our own comfort. So yeah.
posted by LooseFilter at 8:27 PM on October 25, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm moving into Mr. Dan territory myself. Roving bands of children encircle our new apartment. The braver ones have introduced themselves to me and now cries of "Hi, Jim!" fill the air. Even the youngest nonverbal ones smile and wave as they toddle past. While I am not in any way aching for human contact it is admittedly fascinating to see young minds and personalities emerging before your eyes. I have the time and interest to spend with these children so it is somehow oddly enjoyable. I would imagine Mr. Dan might be the same...
posted by jim in austin at 8:29 PM on October 25, 2016 [16 favorites]

Made me tear up thinking about my grandma and her last years. Wish I'd had made more of an effort to visit more.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 8:49 PM on October 25, 2016 [4 favorites]

Such a sweet story. Amazing what serendipitous interactions can become.
posted by delight at 9:20 PM on October 25, 2016

What a beautiful story - thank you for sharing
posted by glaucon at 9:21 PM on October 25, 2016

Well this is just delightful.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 9:24 PM on October 25, 2016

I'm not sniffling - you're sniffling.
posted by Ambient Echo at 9:33 PM on October 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

ok, maybe I'm sniffling a little, too
posted by Ambient Echo at 9:37 PM on October 25, 2016

The article and pictures were lovely. I'm really touched by this bit: "Somehow, at only four years old, Norah knows just how painful loneliness can be. In her Today Parents article, Tara says, 'She asks about Mr. Dan everyday. She worries about him. She wonders if he’s lonely, or cold, or has cheese for his sandwiches. She wants him to be okay. She wants him to feel loved.'" Thank you for posting this!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:38 PM on October 25, 2016 [5 favorites]

Thanks for sharing! Needed this today.
posted by Nancy_LockIsLit_Palmer at 1:40 AM on October 26, 2016

What a loving child, and a supportive mama to encourage her daughter's compassion. Needed to hear this story today, thanks for posting.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 1:42 AM on October 26, 2016

cynical reaction (aw, that's sweet, but wow, odds are that Norah is going to learn about death at an early age if she's 4 and her best friend is 82)

Well, she's at least aware that death is nearby: "[Old peoples] all gonna die soon so I’m gonna love ‘em all up before they is died.”
posted by Kabanos at 8:39 AM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do they have enough cheese?

Does anyone?
posted by leotrotsky at 9:05 AM on October 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

ok, maybe I'm sniffling a little, too

Yeah, I thought it was you. Then I realised it was me too.
posted by Pouteria at 9:12 AM on October 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ok, maybe small children aren't the horrors that I had previously thought.

You go, Norah. Save the whole world!
posted by blurker at 10:46 AM on October 26, 2016

Not gonna lie, I expected Mr. Dan to be a turtle
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:38 PM on October 26, 2016 [4 favorites]

More details about Mr. Dan in this version of the story.
Later that night, I received a private message from a local reader who recognized Mr. Dan.

His wife, Mary, had passed away in March and he had been lonely since his beloved had gone. She wanted to let me know that she was certain his heart was touched by my little girl. That he needed it and it likely would never forget it.

I asked for his phone number and called him a few days later.

We made a visit to Mr. Dan’s cozy and tidy house — reminders of Mary still proudly displayed everywhere you look. He had gotten a haircut, shaved, and was wearing slacks and dress shoes. He looked ten years younger. He’d set out a child’s table, blank paper, and crayons out for Norah. He asked if she’d draw some pictures for him to display on his refrigerator. She happily agreed and went right to work.

We ended up spending nearly three hours with Mr. Dan that day. He was patient and kind with my talkative, constantly moving girl. He wiped ketchup off of her cheek and let her finish his chicken nuggets.

As we walked him to his front door after lunch, he pulled out a pocket knife a cut the single red rose blooming by his porch. He spent ten minutes cutting every thorn off of the stem before handing it to his new friend. She keeps that rose, now dry as a bone, in a Ziploc bag under her pillow.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:45 PM on October 26, 2016 [11 favorites]

Had I realized I was going to blub away when I read this, I would have saved this utterly charming story for a time when I was not staffing the very busy, very public reference desk at work. But still - What a lovely antidote for all the sour election news! Thanks for posting it.
posted by but no cigar at 3:38 PM on October 26, 2016

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