More than 20 years ago, Mike Moffitt started getting a lot of calls from a Florida phone number.
The older woman on the other end of the line was trying to reach her daughter, who lives in Maryland. But she kept dialing area code 401, instead of 410 — and getting Moffitt instead.
Finally, "I said, 'Hey, what's your name?'" Moffitt told The Providence Journal last week. "And we started hitting it off."
The woman's name was Gladys, and as time went on, she became a steady fixture in Moffitt's life. But the two had never met — until recently, when Moffitt showed up to surprise her with flowers on the day before Thanksgiving.
"I just said, 'Hey, I'm Mike from Rhode Island,'" Moffitt said. "Her eyes lit up."
Moffitt, 46, is the owner of Dennis Moffitt Painting in Wakefield. After their first real conversation, he said, Gladys started calling him to ask how his family was doing, or what the weather in Rhode Island was like.
"I started doing the same," he said.
Their conversations never got too deep, and usually only lasted a few minutes. But every so often, either "Mike from Rhode Island" or "Gladys from Florida" would call to check in with the other.
"It just kind of brightens your day," Moffitt said.
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The two are separated by about 30 years and thousands of miles. Gladys is Black, and Moffitt is white.
But they've struck a bond despite those differences. When Gladys' husband died, her son called Moffitt to let him know.
"She told him, 'Call Mike from Rhode Island,'" Moffitt said.
He sent flowers — and realized that their friendship had gotten serious.
Like many Rhode Islanders, Moffitt and his family periodically go down to Florida to escape the winter weather. At one point, he realized that the place where they usually stay was about 45 minutes from Gladys' home in Delray Beach.
But the moment for a visit never seemed to be quite right — with a family of five, Moffitt had a hard time getting away, and he didn't want to impose on a woman he'd never met.
The timing was finally right
This year, the family decided to spend Thanksgiving in Florida while looking at colleges for Moffitt's eldest daughter. While driving around on Wednesday, he realized that he was only 2.3 miles from Gladys' house.
"I just literally knocked on the door," he said.
Moffitt hadn't warned anyone that he was coming, not wanting Gladys to feel that she had to get the house ready for a visitor. When he walked through the door with a bouquet of flowers and explained who he was, he said, the first words out of her mouth were, "I'm blessed."
Thanksgiving visit in Florida
The visit didn't last long — Gladys was getting ready for Thanksgiving, and Moffitt didn't want to be in the way — but they shared a hug and Moffitt got to briefly meet Gladys' family.
They also took a selfie, which Moffitt posted on Facebook. "There are incredible people in this World that are a wrong number phone call away," he wrote, explaining the story.
The photo soon had hundreds of comments and likes, and Moffitt began getting calls from people he knew but hadn't spoken to in years, telling him that he was the talk of their Thanksgiving table.
Now that they've met in person, Moffitt hopes to continue to get to know Gladys better, and play an even bigger role in her life.
"She’s just a great person," he said.
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Wrong number sparks 20-year friendship between RI man and Florida woman