His Oldest Friend
The Story of an Unlikely Bond
By Sonny Kleinfield
(Times Books, Hardcover, 9780805075809, 288pp.)
Publication Date: August 11, 2005
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A vivid portrait of an uncommon friendship that spans generations, uniting the wisdom of youth with the spark of old age
They met under the least auspicious circumstances. He was a teenage volunteer at a nursing home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She was a wheelchair-bound resident in her nineties. He was poor, Hispanic, living in a rented room in the barrio, separated from his family. Her life, at least before arthritis hobbled her, was comfortable, and her daughters and grandchildren visited as often as they could. But when Margaret Oliver’s daughter hired Elvis Checo to look in on her mother a few afternoons each week, nobody realized that this would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
In His Oldest Friend, Sonny Kleinfield of The New York Times takes us inside the lives of these two unlikely friends to explore the world of the very young and the very old, showing how underappreciated these groups often are—a mystery to one another and to so many of us in the middle-class adult population. Too often we tend to group together “youth” and “the elderly,” submerging individuals into a group identity. But Elvis and Margaret offer each other that rarest of gifts: recognition and affirmation as a unique human being. Kleinfield opens their lives to us, and shows how their bond of friendship rescued each of them from the bleakness that defeats so many of the youngest and oldest among us.
Sonny Kleinfield is a reporter for The New York Times and the author of seven previous books. He has contributed articles to The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Esquire, and Rolling Stone, and he was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal before joining the Times. He shared in a Pulitzer Prize for a Times series on race in America and has received a number of journalism awards, including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the Meyer Berger Award, an American Society of Newspaper Editors Award, and the Gerald Loeb Award. A native of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, he is a graduate of New York University and lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.
"An important, powerfully written, quite touching book."
--Robert Coles, author of The Moral Intelligence of Children
"A poignant, yet militant account . . . that will make stones weep." --Michael Harrington, author of The Other America