CHEYENNE – As she looked across the street, Angie Nefzger couldn’t help but tear up. There, in the parking lot of the Granite Rehabilitation and Wellness nursing home, was her husband, who had been admitted to the facility three months ago, before a global pandemic forced aging-care facilities everywhere to restrict visitations.
“We’ve been together 22 years, and this is the longest we haven’t seen each other,” Nefzger said.
The couple finally got a chance to say hello from a distance Wednesday afternoon.
On a perfect spring day, residents of the Granite facility set up folding chairs and umbrellas outside to greet a long procession of cars brimming with loved ones and greeting signs.
Restrictions on visits to the Granite facility have been in place since mid-March, forcing families to make do with whatever virtual means they have to stay in touch. Like many, Nefzger and her husband had mainly been communicating via video chats, which help to break the monotony of life on lockdown.
“They are confined to those rooms,” Nefzger said. “For us, it doesn’t seem like our freedom is (restricted), but it really is when you can’t walk out the front door or go make a sandwich.”
As cars teeming with kids proceeded past the parking lot, some hollered, “Hey, Grandma!” and flashed signs reading “We miss you” to waves and thumbs-up signs from the masked seniors.
A few horses even joined the procession, trotting along to cheers from the residents. Their owner, Anne Larson, brought them at the request of her friend, who works for the Granite facility. She even brought a goat, who said hello to the residents.
“If they want to put a goat outside somebody’s window, I’ll bring the goat, I’ll bring the horse,” Larson said. “I love to take my animals to places like this.”
Others watched from across the street. Two of the onlookers, 12-year-old twins Kian and Emily McDonough, had family both working and living in the Granite facility. The twins’ mom and sister work on staff for the facility, while their grandmother resides there.
“Usually, we come visit our mom and our sister and our grandmother, but we can’t because of the coronavirus,” Kian said.
Emily, who sometimes volunteers at the facility, explained that residents would normally be able to go on walks outside the building, but haven’t been able to in recent weeks.
“They haven’t been out in weeks now, so this should be good for them and probably lift their spirits a little bit,” said Emily, who was holding a puppy Boston terrier named Cooper that had yet to meet their grandmother.
As the decorated cars passed by the parking lot, one of them, a black 1926 Ford Model T, stood out among the rest. Its driver, JJ Johnston, was taking it out for a spin to visit his sister, the partial owner of the car, who has been staying in the facility.
As he and other family members passed by for another go-round, Johnston repeatedly honked the horn, which made a sound rarely heard outside of black-and-white movies.
After bringing the car to a stop, Johnston admitted the last few weeks have been tough. But he was sure his sister and everyone else at the facility would appreciate the gesture from a distance.
“It’s difficult, because you can’t go see them,” Johnston said. “But everybody knows it’s in their best interest and our best interest.”