WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a couple reunites after 335 days of forced social distancing. On their wedding day in 1963, they vowed to love each other “in sickness and in health.” First Alzheimer’s, then the coronavirus pandemic, their vow remains unbroken.
The relationship between Harriet and Jerry Shenkman is a love story that began with a blind date at a Manhattan jazz club and has endured for almost 60 years. “My husband is a very kind, lovely person. So I give a lot of credit to him. Just a good person, and I was very lucky,” Harriet said.
Jerry is a resident in the Alzheimer’s care program at The Bristal in White Plains. The memory-destroying brain disorder is a difficult situation for any family. It was made more so by the pandemic, which ended in-person visits for months.
The Bristal installed a patio heater. The devotion of visiting family members has warmed the hearts of the staff. “Touches hands on the window, you know. So, yes, love is strong and it endures,” said Winsome Bent, regional director of The Bristal.
Hands meeting on a window is a poor substitute for holding the hand that has been at your side since 1963. “Not something I ever imagined in my lifetime,” Harriet said.
The forced separation ended Wednesday, thanks to revised visitation policies and COVID-19 vaccinations.
The Shenkmans held hands and for a brief moment Jerry seemed to reconnect with the world. A Zoom photo-op arranged by the staff included a touching moment when Jerry presented a Valentine’s bouquet to his bride of almost 58 years.
“I’m so happy to be able to bring joy and showcase love at a time like this. We all need it,” The Bristal’s Rena Hyman said.
Harriet believes the pandemic separation further diminished Jerrry’s grip on his memories, but she has her’s — and they’re precious.
The reunion was originally scheduled for Sunday, Valentine’s Day, but Harriet has an important appointment that day. She’s getting her second COVID vaccination shot.