“I have a surprise for you, Mrs. Miller!” Dylan shouted from outside the door of his neighbor’s house. Erin was an elderly woman who could barely walk, and she formed a special bond with Dylan, a 17-year-old boy. Dylan performed several services for her in exchange for money, but they became friends.
Erin’s other neighbors did not like Dylan. His father had abandoned his family. His mother was disabled and not supported by the government. So Dylan became the mainstay of a family of four and unfortunately joined a notorious gang in the city.
Erin did not want to judge him, as she understood what he was going through as she raised her son, Gregory, on her own. As for finances, she lived paycheck to paycheck for years, and Gregory eventually became a successful businessman in California. He often sent her money.
So when Dylan showed up at her door asking if there was anything to do at her house, Erin agreed. Later, she learned that he needed money to support his ailing, hospitalized mother.
Dylan was good at many things. A leaky faucet? He could fix it. A problem with the washing machine? Dylan would fix it.
And when he didn’t have much to do, he’d come over and spend time with Erin, talking. Over time, he started bringing his twin sisters along so Erin could watch them when he went out at night. The older woman never asked what he did when he went out at night, but she was concerned about him.
However, it was strange that he knocked on the door and called her this time. Usually, he would come straight inside the house. Cautiously, Erin used her walker to move to her door, and to her amazement, Dylan was holding a giant birthday cake with lit candles, and his little twin sisters were next to him. They all started singing ‘happy birthday’, and Erin’s hands shook on her walker as emotion coursed through her body.
Her eyes were filled with tears when they finished singing, and Dylan helped her back to the couch. Then she made a wish and blew out the candles, in front of the happy twins. Erin watched as the kids looked around for a knife, plates, and whatever else they needed to cut the cake and get a slice. They were the only ones who remembered her 100th birthday.
She had expected Gregory to call her for this occasion, but he didn’t, and her heart was broken. She knew he was busy, but there was nothing complicated about a quick phone call. The kids offered her a plate with a piece of the delicious birthday cake.
Later that evening, Erin offered to have Dylan move in with her sisters so they wouldn’t have to pay rent and could invest everything in his mother’s health. It took a few days, but he finally agreed. Surprisingly, they adjusted perfectly to the new environment, and Dylan began reorganizing the house, fixing up old furniture and finding good things to buy online.
As Erin lost more and more mobility, Dylan was there to take care of her and the house, fixing and cleaning what he could. Even the 10-year-old twins were independent enough to prepare simple meals for the house. Erin was happier than she had been in years, and she was glad she could help these children. But she had never noticed how much her home had changed.
Gregory’s plane landed in Virginia early in the morning. He rented a car and drove at top speed to his childhood home. He had no idea what his mother was actually thinking. One of the neighbors, his old friend from high school, called him out of the blue and told him that his mother was harboring a gang member and two other children in her house.
“My God, she’s crazy,” he muttered. He parked the car in front of the house, walked across the lawn to the door, and turned the handle. It was unlocked, and he went in.
But Gregory was surprised and amazed. The house was not at all what he had expected or remembered from his last visit two years ago. He still sent his mother money, but she didn’t have the strength to change much, and some of the items were out of date. She couldn’t do as much cleaning as she used to because of her age, and yet the house was clean. It was shiny and looked more modern than he remembered.
“Gregory! What are you doing here?” Erin asked as she turned around with her walker in the kitchen and saw her son in the middle of the living room.
“Mom, what happened here?” he asked, looking around in shock.
“Oh, the house is pretty, isn’t it? That’s because of Dylan and his sisters. He also has an eye for spotting and buying used furniture. That’s impressive,” Erin said.
“Dylan?” whispered Gregory, his lips pursing.
“It’s a long story,” she said. “Sit down, and we’ll talk about it.”
Although Gregory was ready to scold his mother for inviting the gang member into her home, he sat and listened to her without interrupting. He didn’t know what to say when his mom finished.
She was happy, really happy, and she even pointed to a photo of a Polaroid stuck on her refrigerator.
“We took it on my 100th birthday two months ago. I can’t believe Polaroids are back in style,” Erin said happily. But her words surprised her son.
He had completely forgotten about her birthday, and yet three local children were there to celebrate the happy event with her. His mother was in no danger from Erin, and he realized that his friend had probably overreacted. So Gregory apologized to his mother for forgetting her birthday while promising to make it up to her.
He asked his mother about Dylan and his activities, but she couldn’t answer because she didn’t know much.
“I was hoping to get him out of this and send him to school. He’s got talent. He could be an architect or an interior decorator, and the girls deserve better than what they have now. They visit their mom in the hospital,” Erin explained as best she could.
Their mother, Julie, seemed to be doing better, so much so that she wanted to get out of the hospital. Once the day arrived, Julie also moved in with Erin.
Gregory worried about the strain on his aging mother, but she seemed more vibrant and happy than she had ever been.
That night he met the beautiful children in question, including Dylan. He stayed for several weeks and was there when their mother was released from the hospital. Eventually, Dany told Gregory about his nighttime activities. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t alarming either.
When Dylan graduated from the local University of Virginia, Gregory returned home. Soon after, his mother died, leaving Julie and her twins their home.
Erin and the rest of the family were not in danger from him, so the businessman returned to California, knowing that his mother was being cared for and loved sincerely. He also paid Julie’s medical bills, and set up a fund so Dylan could go to school.
When Dylan graduated from the local University of Virginia, Gregory returned home. Soon after, his mother died, leaving Julie and her twins her home.
Gregory and Julie fell in love and were married about a year later. Dylan was the best man at their wedding.
Gregory’s only regret in life is that he forgot his mother’s 100th birthday.