On July 30, Judy and Chick Horwitz hugged for the first time since March.
Judy Horwitz was waiting on a couch in a well-lit corridor when her husband of 56 years got off the elevator. She was ready to give him a big hug for the first time in three months, but first they both had to go through some pandemic protocols.
Charles “Chick” Horwitz lives in the memory care wing of Tuscan Gardens Senior Living, off Colbert Lane in Palm Coast; Judy lives in their Palm Coast home, where they spent the past 19 years together after retiring from Maryland.
With Program Director Sara Meinking’s help, Chick got prepared on one side of a clear plastic wall, while Judy did the same on the opposite side, on the morning of July 30.
The wall consisted of two panels, one made of plexiglass, the other a 10-millimeter-thick plastic sheet that is normally used as a table liner. Four arm holes had been cut in the plastic sheet and sealed with toilet flanges, explained Dani Gomez, Tuscan Gardens’ director of environmental services, who constructed the “Hug Wall.” Arm-length rubber gloves (sand-blasting gloves, Gomez said) were affixed to the flanges.
Gomez had thought through the mechanics of hugging to make the wall ergonomic; the holes were offset so that the right glove can go over the left shoulder of the person who is being hugged, and the left glove is lower so that it can go under the right arm.
“It doesn’t feel right to have two gloves up here,” Gomez said, holding his arms straight out, “because you hug at an angle.”
But before Judy and Chick put their arms in the rubber gloves in the Hug Wall, they also put on disposable arm-length plastic gloves — called “Breeder Sleeves” because they are used by cattle breeders in calf deliveries.
That detail made Judy laugh.
Is the apparatus creepy? I asked.
“Unless you’re here experiencing it on their side,” Gomez said.
Judy agreed. “When you’re not able to touch your husband since the end of March, this is wonderful,” she said. “The people who think it’s crazy don’t have a loved one they can’t touch.”
Judy and Chick stepped closer together, their faces inches apart, the arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders.
“Thank you for shaving,” Judy said with a smile. “You had a little fall yesterday, but you’re OK, right?”
Their lips met on opposite sides of the plastic liner. They slow danced. They kissed again.
Then Chick’s nose started to itch, so Judy scratched it for him with the rubber glove.