For a two-week period in the same building, Patricia Halprin couldn’t see her husband of 63 years
DESTIN — For a two-week period, Patricia Halprin couldn’t see her husband of 63 years.
She and Edwin Halprin, 81, live only a football field apart in separate rooms at Brookdale Destin, but COVID-19 had made its way into the assisted living facility, keeping them apart for their health. While Edwin, who she calls Ed, has dementia and can’t communicate with words because of damage to his vocal muscles, Patricia, 82, can hardly stand going a day without being at his side.
CJ Lydon, Brookdale Destin's director of sales and marketing, was there when they reunited via Facetime. Ed was the most verbal she had ever seen him, Lydon said.
“The joy in his face, and his hands were reaching for her,” Lydon said. “Myself and — I had another staff member with me — we were crying. It was the most perfect, beautiful instrument of continuous love I’d ever witnessed. I talked to Steve and David (their children) after, and said, ‘Your parents are such a testimony of devotion and caring and selflessness I have ever witnessed in my life.’”
The two since have been able to visit each other again in person.
“He does hold my hand,” Patricia said. “He’ll take it and place it on his chest and stay that way. I still wear a mask when I go in. I don’t know if it’s necessary, but I just do. Sometimes I don’t think he recognizes me. The other day, he pulled me down and he kissed the mask.”
Patricia and Edwin Halprin had 'a normal marriage’
Patricia and Ed met their junior year of high school in Hollywood, Florida.
Patricia surmises she fell in love with his “looks” first.
They dated for several years, but when he went away to Florida State University they couldn’t stand being apart anymore. So they married on March 3, 1958.
“We just assumed that we were getting married,” Patricia said. “There was no big fancy thing about it.”
They rented an apartment off campus while finishing school. Patricia remembers a day when she planned to do some shopping for the apartment.
“I drove over in my pajamas, drove him to class and ran out of gas,” Patricia said. “I’m in the middle of the Florida State campus with no gas and a robe on. It just tickled him to death. He thought that was the funniest thing that I would do something like that.”
The couple had three children together, starting the year after they were married: Mark, Steven and David. Mark Allen has since died of cancer. Steven lives in Niceville and David lives in Georgia.
“All my kids look just like Ed, like I had nothing to do with it,” Patricia said with a laugh.
Ed is 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighs about the same now as he did in high school, even though he ate whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, Patricia said.
He was smart, too, she said. Ed received his master’s and doctorate degrees in physics and served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years.
They had a normal marriage, Patricia said. They played bridge, traveled, golfed, joined a bowling league and had dinner every Friday night with the same couple for some 20 or 30 years, she said. And as parents, they were at every sports game or school event.
Ed was a good sports father.
“He had more patience than I did,” Patricia said. “He never criticized what happened or played it over. ‘You did the best you could. That’s all you could do.’ ”
She thinks their children were better because of it. Ed’s family was strict when he was growing up, she said.
“If he got seven As and one B, ‘Why didn’t you get more? You’ll have to study more,’ ” Patricia said. “Ed didn’t do that with our kids. He did not push them. I think that made them pay more attention to their classes.”
The boys always listened to him, she said.
Patricia remembers when Steven, as an adult, prepared to play in a golf tournament. Patricia and Steven’s then-girlfriend encouraged him to buy new golfing shoes, to no avail.
“The next time he was over, I said, ‘Did you get the shoes?’ and he said, ‘No, I didn’t have time,’ or some excuse, so Ed said, ‘Please get a new pair of golfing shoes before we play the tournament,’ ” Patricia said. “The next day Steve had a new pair of golfing shoes.
“I said, ‘Well how come you didn’t get them when we said to get them?’ He said, ‘Well, when dad speaks, we listen.’ ”
Brookdale Destin hallway love story
It doesn’t seem possible it’s been 63 years, Patricia said. The couple recently celebrated their anniversary at Brookdale Destin.
“Ed, I told him that morning, ‘Do you realize what we did 63 years ago?’ ” Patricia said.
That afternoon, the dining director found out it was their anniversary and surprised them with chocolate-covered strawberries and heart-shaped cookies.
“He said, ‘Anyone that can be married 63 years deserves something special,’ ” Patricia said. “That was really nice, I thought, of him to remember he heard me talking to someone.”
Patricia thinks what made their marriage last is simple.
“I think first, you’ve gotta love the person you marry,” Patricia said. “You’re willing to give in a little sometimes and let him have his way sometimes. That and Ed not having a temper certainly helped.”
Being together now means more than ever.
Before July 2020, they were living in another facility where Patricia couldn’t see Edwin as frequently as she wanted. Her sons secretly surprised her by arranging a transfer to Brookdale Destin.
“My two sons got tired of hearing me complain that I didn’t get to see Dad,” Patricia said. “Here at Brookdale, they allow me to see him anytime I want to. I go and sit with him day in and day out. Now his favorite thing to do is watch the old-time Westerns on TV. I think I’ve seen every one of them two or three times. But he likes it, so we leave the TV on in the room on that channel.”
Andrew Young, a senior public relations specialist, said Brookdale Destin's staff calls it “our hallway love story.”
Ed’s demeanor changes when Patricia is around, said Lydon, the sales and marketing director.
“He will look at me, but when Pat’s in the room, it’s like the world has stopped,” Lydon said. “He can’t say, ‘Oh, honey, I love you,’ but he says it.”
It makes Patricia feel wonderful when he reacts to seeing her, but feels sorry that he’s in this condition, she said.
“I try to do everything I can that will make him happy,” Patricia said. “I talk to him about golfing and what we did on a certain day or something — try to bring back memories. Once in awhile I might say something funny and he will smile at it, so I think he listens to what I say.”