So Close Yet So Far Away

SEPARATED BY COVID-19, this is the only way Jim could communicate with his bride Sunday on their 70th anniversary. Facebook image

Social distancing has changed the way we all live, but for Jim and Wava Vickerman, separation has really taken its toll. Sunday was their 70th anniversary, but having to live in two separate facilities made it impossible to share the moment the way they would like.

Jim and Wava Vickerman share a love for one another that has stood the test of time — and the outbreak of a virus.

Jim and Wava on Sunday “celebrated” their 70th wedding anniversary — only they didn’t get to share a warm embrace or a kiss on their big day.

Since the spread of the coronavirus has put all assisted living facilities and nursing homes on lockdown, it’s been weeks since the couple has spent time together — physically there for the other to hold the other’s hand or share a hug.

“The last time I was there I was told I better give him a big hug because I probably wouldn’t be seeing him again anytime soon,” said Wava.

The couple, together since high school, is separated by COVID-19: Wava at O’Brien Court, and Jim at Prairie View. Last October the couple made the difficult decision to move from the farm — and the house they built when they got married — to O’Brien Court. It was hoped that the move would be a temporary one, but three months later Jim was transferred to Prairie View because he needed more help than his wife could provide.

Daughter-in-law Pat Vickerman said while the move wasn’t easy for either of them, they were OK because they were together. Now, thanks to the spread of coronavirus, the divide between the two might as well be an ocean. And in an era where impersonal emails have all but replaced the written word, Wava is relying on what some would consider an antiquated form of communication to stay in touch with her husband of 70 years.

“I just write him now,” she said. “I hope he’s reading them. Mostly, I tell him I love him and that I miss him. He misses me, too, I’m sure. The nurses say he talks about me a lot.”

“I love her,” Jim said. “This puts a little drag on everything though. I don’t like this, but it’s reality. It’s hard on my wife, but that’s life. We’re always together in our heart.”

Prairie View started not allowing visitors on March 11, said Jim and Wava’s daughter, Jill Vickerman Jopp. That’s when Wava took pen to paper; talking over the phone isn’t much of an option since Jim suffers from hearing loss (the staff at Prairie View shares what she wrote by writing it on a white board). When Wava called, a nurse would put the phone to Jim’s ear, but his hearing loss made communicating that way nearly impossible. However, hearing her husband’s voice was music to Wava’s ears.

For Jim, however, not being able to hear Wava is hard on him.

“I can talk to her but I can’t hear her, that’s the hardest part,” he said.

Jopp said she and her husband had planned to visit on March 13, but that never happened. Still, she realizes the situation and why the facilities closed their doors.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.