“They hugged again and we walked away. Norah watched him until he was out of view.
“I’d be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t a weepy mess after their encounter.
“I was blown away by this meeting and thought maybe some of the readers on my Facebook page might enjoy hearing about it.
“I posted the story and a photo of the two of them.”
“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 and 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.”
“Norah asks about Mr. Dan every day. 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.