Bob Ragin can tell you exactly how many days it’s been since he’s hugged his wife, MaryBeth. On March 16, he helped her move into Mount Pleasant Gardens — the very same day the facility locked down due to COVID-19. Despite missing her touch, he is thankful that he can still stay connected every day from his own home at Franke at Seaside using the iPhone application, FaceTime.
“Using FaceTime helps a lot, and she looks forward to it,” Bob said about his wife, who recently moved to Mount Pleasant Gardens to receive special care for her dementia. “We have a little dog, Muffin, whom she loves, and I always have to find [Muffin] and put her in the picture.”
Married for 65 years, the Ragins have known each other since they were just 10 years old. During the second world war, Bob’s family moved from Florida to Columbia, South Carolina and rented a house from the family of his future bride. “From 1944 to 1946, we were neighbors,” he shared. “She can’t tell you what happened yesterday, but she can remember her childhood and tell you about those days, which helps in times like these.”
Being only two miles away, Bob and Muffin visit MaryBeth once a week on the allowed visitation days — but always through a glass window.
“This is day 136 that I haven’t hugged or touched my wife,” he said in early August, during this interview. “It’s hard when you’ve been married for 65 years, and suddenly the other side of the bed is empty. I wish this thing was over.”
Fortunately, FaceTime keeps the two connected. They chat daily, and MaryBeth said, “It makes me feel good to be able to see my husband every day, in his everyday life, driving around and golfing.” MaryBeth also regularly uses the app to connect with their four children and 12 grandchildren — but, according to the staff at Mount Pleasant Gardens, “Bob’s her favorite person to see, along with Muffin.”
The move was hard on the couple, and the quarantine hit even harder. “I had to get used to it because I was around him all the time and really missed him so much,” MaryBeth said. Of course, the silver lining is that she is safe at Mount Pleasant Gardens, and she is surrounded by her friends.
One friend in particular, Didi Boyer, is relishing her own discovery of FaceTime to talk to her son, Alex. “It’s so easy for her use,” said the Mount Pleasant Gardens staff, though they are often nearby to help make the call or assist with technical challenges. “She knows she just has to press one button, and it makes a huge difference in her ability to keep in touch with her family.”
Despite his busy schedule as a doctor, Alex always finds the time to talk to his mom. “We talk about how we are, the family, where they went, politics — whatever,” said Didi. And if Alex doesn’t answer while the staff is around to help, Didi knows he’ll call back.
Like Bob, Alex is a regular with the window visits, and Didi genuinely misses the time spent in person, walking the gardens and going to Starbucks. While they wait for the quarantine to end, FaceTime keeps them constantly connected and able to have new conversations every day.
By Teri Errico Griffis