Separated By Alzheimer’s And Covid-19 — Their Hope The Vaccine Will Reunite Them

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Elderly woman on the phone

Gordon Norman, 84, has many jobs as a husband. His most important, perhaps, is the job of being his wife’s memory.

His 80-year old wife, Diane Norman, has had Alzheimer’s disease for four years now. And due to the Covid-19-related restrictions on her assisted living home, they have not seen each other in person for almost a year now.

The elderly couple has been together for 54 years of marriage.

“Today is our wedding anniversary,” Gordon said.

On February 17, the two celebrated in a way they never could have predicted more than half a century ago — over FaceTime.

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How did it all begin?

In 1966, Diane had two small children and had just become a widow after a car crash took her husband’s life.

Not long after, she met Gordon at a baton-twirling school halftime show. He'd come to watch with his niece, and Diane had come with her daughter.

Gordon knew right away that Diane was the one.

According to Gordan, Dian was “drop-dead gorgeous.” He proposed within a few short months.

“They say when the right one comes along, it hits you like a freight train,” Gordon said with a chuckle. “I guess that’s what happened.”

After getting married on February 17, 1967, the newlyweds opened a travel agency where they would work for up to 80 hours a week, specializing in accommodations for bands and musical groups.

“The whole time, she was right there by him,” said Bob Kuhn, a former mayor of Glendora and the executor of the family’s estate, when reflecting on their partnership. “He couldn’t have done it without her and she couldn’t have done it without him.”

The onset of Diane’s Alzheimer's symptoms began slowly.

Gordon first noticed when they went on a week-long trip to Fosston, MN. She kept forgetting small things like where she had her purse and wallet. She also began to be quiet among people she knew.

It got worse about a year ago when Gordon would see her rambling to herself and, at times, swearing at him. He was most scared when he came home one day and she wasn’t there. It turned out she had walked a mile to a nearby pharmacy.

“But she came home,” he said. “That was a blessing.”

In a span of two months, Gordon saw the world go on lockdown in a state of emergency. Soon, he had to put Diane in a home for elderly residents with dementia.

He has not been able to see her since then.

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A Difficult Time in the Age of Covid-19

The first three months of the pandemic and his wife being in the care facility were the hardest.

“It took me a lot of mental training to not wonder what she was doing each minute,” Gordon said. “I go to bed every night knowing she’s in a safe place, that there’s a good staff and she’s being taken care of.”

He kept busy by cleaning the house and by going to drop off some things to Diane every now and then.

The closest he has been to his beloved wife is the front step of the care facility.

On Valentine’s Day, he dropped off medicine, Pop-Tarts, a card addressed to his “Princess Di,” and, of course, flowers for the special day.

The pandemic has made it difficult for all of us to live normal lives.

For people living in care facilities, it may have been even harder.

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The Covid-19 Vaccine Might be the Much Needed Light at the End of the Tunnel

With all the challenges the Norman’s have faced, when Gordon received his second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. a flicker of hope seemed just ready to ignite into full-fledged optimism.

They expected to see each other soon after, but then he received a call from the care facility informing him that Diane had fallen and broken her hip.

Many days later, he was able to FaceTime his wife again. After being sent to a rehab center for a week, she needed to be quarantined for two weeks upon being sent back to the care facility

“They keep kicking the ball farther down the road every day,” he said.

Regardless of the obstacles they have faced, Gordon remains optimistic that he will soon be able to see the woman he fell in love with 53 years ago.

Although she may not remember who he is, he remembers.

Gordon is her memory box. Her love. She is his “Princess Di.”

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Tomás Diniz Santos is a writer living in Orlando, Florida. He covers news, entertainment, and pop-culture topics.