SANTA MARIA, Calif. - After a year apart due to the pandemic, a husband and wife in Santa Maria recently reunited.
But it’s not the same as it was before, as one of them developed dementia while visitation restrictions were in place.
Wherever John Nicholson goes, he lights up the room at Merrill Gardens in Santa Maria.
"He’s heartwarming, he’s real and has an incredible story his whole life," said general manager Audie Sherberg of Merrill Gardens.
The veteran served in the Vietnam war, and was the captain of an aircraft carrier.
He has also been madly in love with his wife Evelyn for 68 years.
Just Before the pandemic, his wife began showing early signs of dementia.
She was taken to a local facility while John remained at Merrill Gardens.
"We have not touched each other for a year," said John.
When visitation reopened at both facilities, John had a chance to see her again.
"I don't know if she will remember me," said John.
John knew there was only one way to find out.
"Remember me? You were looking at me like you might’ve remembered me. I’m John I’m your husband. We’ve been together for 68 years." John said to his wife Evelyn while visiting her.
The reunion served as a powerful reminder of what we've all lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I know she remembers his voice. But I’m not sure if she remembers him because of the length of time that she hasn’t seen him," said administrator Tine Roberts of Tina's Gentle Care Home.
John’s visit with her lasted only a few minutes, but those few minutes went a long way.
"I can’t explain it. It was powerful. I’d like to think she remembers me. But I can tell it’s difficult to put it all together. Deep down I think she still remembers me," said John.
Regardless, John said he plans to visit her every day for the rest of his life. "As long as I stay on planet earth, I can take care of her. So my mission is to make sure I stick around."