KVUE — Some friendships are made to last, no matter the age differences, no matter the distance. This story is proof.
There are a lot of memories packed into Norman and Bobbie Fikes' Bastrop home. The two share a love few ever experience, married 58 years. "I'm not much of a quitter," said Norman. But theirs is not the only relationship destined to last a lifetime.
Back in 1996, a Victoria Advocate editorial asking for pen pals for school children Rochester, New York caught his attention. "I'm a writer. I like to write," said Norman. And so began an unlikely friendship between an 11-year-old girl named Nicole from New York and Norman, a 61-year-old man from Texas.
Through holidays, high school graduation and the heartbreaking loss of Norman and Bobbie's dog, the two exchanged hundreds of cards, letters, pictures and poems. "This is a calendar she sent in 2011. I refuse to hang it on the wall and mess it up," Norman joked.
Norman treasures each one, including a poem Nicole wrote as a teen. "I have a little friend, although I've never met her. Well, maybe not face-to-face, but for sure by letter," Norman read from the poem.
There's even a surprise gift that followed a funny exchange when Nicole asked Norman what he wanted for his birthday a few years ago. "I can't decide if I want a Cadillac or a Rolls Royce," he recalled. "So they bought me two toy cars." He still has them on his table in the living room.
After 18 years of writing letters back and forth, these two were about to do something they'd never done before: meet each other face-to-face.
"I'm so excited. I'm nervous," said Norman. He couldn't stop checking his phone. Then Nicole and her family pulled up in their rental car.
"We made it," she said with arms outstretched and tears running down her face. "How are you? Can you believe it?" The two hugged. Eighteen years and 1,600 miles no longer separate these two friends.
"I'll quit crying after a while," joked Norman.
"It's such a rare experience to keep in touch with somebody for 18 years," said Nicole.
"There are no words to describe it," remarked Norman with tears in his eyes. "I've never had anybody go to this much trouble to see me before."
Nicole knew she couldn't wait. A recent diagnosis of Parkinson's keeps Norman from penning many letters these days. "We don't hardly write anymore, neither one of us, we just text," said Norman. "It pretty much has to be by phone, because I can't read what I write."
What started as a school project to help students learn about different states carried a much greater lesson for both Norman and Nicole. "The connections you make are way more important than anything you're going to learn in a book," said Nicole.
Watch the video and read the full story on KVUE.