Photo Credit: Bernard Pollack via CC Flickr
I recently came across a heartwarming story written by Charles Rogers, that I thought would be a beautiful tale to share. It shows us once again, how sometimes, despite millions of people that celebrate Thanksgiving each year, there are still untold numbers of people that are lonely and hurting.
But it can also be a time of sharing and helping others…and sometimes, one act of kindness can have an impact on someone’s life that could last a long time!
There was a time when old-time Canarsien Ned Caro, who is now 85, celebrated Thanksgiving Day just like the rest of us: with turkey and trimmings and family, and even giving a friendly toast to those pilgrims of long ago. Thanksgiving was a happy event – then.
However, things changed two years ago when his wife of sixty years passed away. “Things will never be the same,” he said, rightfully in the depths of depression. The loneliness was almost unbearable, but Ned knew his religion would see him through. “The Lord has a way of helping people like me,” he said. “I know it now because of what He did for me.”
A long time ago, Ned was the owner of a popular bar at the corner of Rockaway Parkway and Glenwood Road, right in the heart of Canarsie, so he was used to listening to stories (“It goes with the job,” he would say). He was also used to telling stories (“That went with the job too, if you came into my place,” he added).
He then proceeded to tell his Thanksgiving story, preceding it with the notation that his late wife’s name was Rose. “Rosie,” he called her.
“My beautiful Rosie was kinda sick about six or seven years ago,” he said. “She was in her seventies and I was almost eighty and getting around wasn’t too easy, so we were getting Meals on Wheels at the time.
“Well, one day the Meals on Wheels person delivered the food and Rosie opened the Styrofoam containers the lunch was packed in and found a note in one of the boxes from the person who packed them, a six-year-old girl by the name of Erin Cohen from West-chester. The note said, ‘Whoever receives this box…please write to me. I am six years old and I would like to hear from you and I will write back.'”
Ned said Rose was “happily surprised” and sat down and read the note over and over, finally saying to him, “I think I’ll write to her.”
Rose took up her pen and note paper and sent off a thank you note to six-year-old Erin Cohen of Westchester, telling her who she and Ned were, where they were from and few insignificant details. She didn’t necessarily feel she’d get a reply, but nevertheless, she asked for one.
“And don’t you know? An answer came the very next week,” Ned said. “Rose was as pleased as she could be and that very night she sat down and answered the nice letter she got from Erin. She told her about me and our son and about how things were here in Canarsie. You know. All the basic stuff.”
She sent off the letter and nervously waited to see if the youngster would continue the correspondence.
Needless to say, she did, and sent along a photo of herself, leading to more exchanges and, eventually, a few phone calls.
Unfortunately, they never met face-to-face, though. According to Ned, the drive was “just too much” for him to try. And Erin’s parents – her father, Lawrence, is a veterinarian and her mother, Diane, an interior decorator- couldn’t make it either. Both parties promised they’d get together “soon”…and the time just went…
On March 27, 2004, at the age of 79, Rosie passed away. Ned was devastated, and, after a reasonable period, called Erin’s parents, telling them, “I really don’t know how to tell Erin that her corresponding friend is gone.” They said they would take care of it for him.
“And what do you think if I continue the correspondence from now on?” he asked.
“That would be wonderful!”
In the summer, as Ned and Erin wrote to each other, Erin’s father invited Ned to join them for dinner at a restaurant near Canarsie where he met Erin, now 12 years old.
“We talked for hours and really hit it off,” he said, excitedly. “We had a beautiful day together.”
As time went on, Ned met with the family every now and then for lunch or dinner on a weekend.
Last September, the family sent him a special invitation to Erin’s bat mitzvah, which he had to turn down.
“I don’t drive now,” Ned answered when they called him.
“I’ll pick you up, take you to our house in Westchester and take you home,” said Mr. Cohen. “How would that be?”
“Just about perfect,” was the answer.
“The story doesn’t end there,” Ned Caro said. “Hopefully, the story will continue for a long, long time because this year they invited me to come to share Thanksgiving dinner with their whole family. This year Thanksgiving will be something special to remember. Again they’ll pick me up and take me home. I mean, last year I was pretty lonely, but this year – especially at this time of year – I’ll break bread with Erin and my ‘other’ family. It’ll be almost like it used to be.
“I’ll dedicate the day to Rosie.”