One 31-year-old L.A. man (a Jose Bautista lookalike, but that could just be us) has a new roommate – and she’s 89-years-old.
It’s not his grandmother either. (Well, not his biological one, at least).
Chris Salvatore, an actor and singer living in West Hollywood, invited his much older neighbour and friend Norma Cook to live with him after she fell ill with leukemia and was given just a few months to live. Cook has lived across the hall from Salvadore for years and the two became friends.
Faced with mounting health bills and a Social Security check that “barely covered rent” (the joys of living in America, right?), Cook was strapped for cash and unable to pay for necessary care.
She also had no family nearby.
So, Salvadore started a hugely successful GoFundMe campaign, managing to raise $50,000 for Cook’s healthcare. To stretch out the dollars, Cook took her cat Hermes and moved across the hall and into Salvadore’s apartment. That way, he could become her primary caregiver in addition to professional caregivers and visits from nurses and doctors.
Salvadore has shared some (super adorable) snaps of he and Cook at home – including on New Year’s Eve. He calls her his “adopted grandma.”
“My life has changed forever because of Norma and what happened. It gave me hope again. I’m forever grateful for Norma because I feel like I’ll carry this with me for the rest of my life,” wrote Salvadore. “I love her, she’s my best friend. I would do anything for her,” Salvatore told PEOPLE. “I believe that human kindness is a magical thing and can heal what doctors can’t.”
Norma and I are finally watching one of her favorites together! ????#haroldandmaude #myneighbornorma A photo posted by Chris Salvatore (@chrissalvatore) on
So, how did this unlikely friendship transpire?
“One day I said, ‘Can I come in and chat?’ Because she just seemed so sweet,” says Salvatore to PEOPLE. “She offered me a glass of champagne, and it was like this immediate friendship.”
As many of us know from relationships with our own grandparents, those decades older have some valuable insight to offer on the merit alone that they’ve been on the planet a lot longer. This is especially true when it comes to love.
“I was going through a break-up at the time, I was depressed and I would sit and talk to her for hours. Just knowing she was there and listening to me made me feel better, she was able to help me through some dark times,” Salvadore told PEOPLE (aw). It didn’t take long before the two were hanging out every day.
The unlikely pair began hanging out every day — cooking, talking and playing with Cook’s cat, Hermes. Refreshingly, Salvadore says that the pair actually bonded because he was gay.
“She had a lot of gay friends growing up that unfortunately passed away during the AIDS epidemic and, being gay, that bonded us right away — we talk about fashion and food mostly,” he told PEOPLE.
He says it’s his job to make her feel “so loved” in her final months.