The story of Erling Kindem and Emmet Rychner and their unlikely friendship is as unlikely as it is heartwarming. See, Kindem is 89 years old and he's a veteran of World War II.
Emmet, on the other hand, is three year old and hasn't seen his first day of school yet.
But these two have become best buddies, hanging out every day in the small city of Farmington, Minnesota, where Erling Kindem tends his vegetable garden — and Emmet helps him any way he can.
The Rychner family had lived next door to Erling Kindem for several years, but never interacted much with the elderly gardener until Emmet decided to make a friend of the man 86 years his senior.
What brought these two unlikely amigos together? The answer is one word, according to Emmet's mom — tomatoes. "They kind of bonded over the tomatoes in his garden," said Ankia Rychner. "Because Emmett loves tomatoes."
"Every time he saw me out there he would come running over," Erling recalls. The little boy would walk right up to him and ask, "Erling, got any 'matoes?"
Before long, Emmet would visit Erling every day, peppering the WWII vet with questions about everything in the garden. Erling answered every one happily.
"It's great for both of them," said Emmet's dad Bryan. "Emmett keeps Erling young at heart. Erling is incredibly patient to Emmett. He always takes the time to explain everything to a 3-year-old,. They basically hang out together every day."
Like many best friends, the pair have their competitive side as well. Riding his battery-powered toy tractor, Emmet repeatedly challenged Erling to races, with Erling at the wheel of his own full-size John Deere.
When Emmet showed up on his tricycle one day, Erling took the challenge. He found an old bike in his garage. The bike was in disrepair and both of its tires were flat. But that didn't stop Erling from pumping them up and climbing on.
Next thing Anika knew, the pair were riding down an alley between the two houses, side by side.
"I thought, am I going to have to call 911, please don't fall over," Anika said, laughing.
Sadly, the daily visits will soon be coming to an end. A for-sale sign will go up front of the Rychner home for a while, and the family will soon relocate to Dundas, Minnesota and a bigger house for Emmet to grow up in.
As for Erling, with his wife increasingly in poor health, his kids have persuaded him to move with her into a senior living community.
Fortunately, the Erling Kindem and Emmet Rychner will be only a five minute drive from each other once both relocate. "It won't be the same because we are not living next door to each other anymore," said Bryan Rychner. "But we are definitely going to let the two reunite when we move."
[Image: Anika Rychner]