Speed Reads

best friends forever

Neighbors — one 2 years old, the other 99 — found friendship during quarantine

Over the last year, Benjamin Olson, 2, and Mary O'Neill, 99, have gone from neighbors to the best of friends.

Benjamin, his parents, and his baby brother Noah live next door to Mary in Minneapolis. The Olsons and O'Neill mostly stayed inside their homes at the start of the pandemic, but Benjamin and Mary started to interact when they were both in their backyards, separated by a chain-link fence. They have since invented a game called "cane ball" – Benjamin kicks a ball to the fence, and Mary hits it back with her cane — and now that he can open Mary's gate on his own, Benjamin regularly comes over to blow bubbles and hand her fistfuls of dirt.

Mary is "his first best friend," Benjamin's mom, Sarah Olson, told KARE 11, and she is "so happy they have each other." She was touched when Mary brought over a basket filled with metal Tonka trunks that belonged to her late son, for Benjamin and Noah to play with. Mary is a widow whose family lives out of state, and she now has pictures of Benjamin and Noah on display in her home. "They're the closest thing to grandchildren I have around here," she said.