Nursing home provides room for later-in-life love story

Logistics mean very little when it comes to Peggy Nyhaug reuniting with her love.

“Just brings tears to my eyes. You don’t know how special this is,” Peggy says.

Several times a week, the 76-year-old takes off from Good Samaritan Society – Sioux Falls Center in South Dakota for what’s become a regular rendezvous.

“Hi you! Well, we made her,” Peggy says as she arrives at her special friend's room.

That “you” is Peggy’s partner Doug Olander at Dow Rummel Village.

“You got a nice haircut. Goodness sakes. I’ll tell you what,” Peggy says as she compliments Doug.

Casual connections like these have been a long time coming.

'Missed him a lot'

The two first met at the Society’s therapy and rehabilitation center in late 2019.

“She has a very good personality. Very loving woman,” says Lana Hennings, Society restorative aide.

Peggy was dealing with complications from diabetes following the loss of her husband of 40 years.

Doug had his own health issues. They quickly clicked and he says their friendship grew.

Eventually ending up in separate locations for long-term care was tough.

“Oh, I missed him a lot. Just him not being there at the table to talk to,” Peggy, who stayed at the Society, says.

Texting took the place of face-to-face. With her daughter one day, Peggy read off a few.

“He sent me these cute little emojis and it was a little boy and girl holding hands and then it had a question mark above it and I thought, ‘Oh!’” Peggy says giggling. “I said what do you think this means? ‘Well mother, don’t you know? What do you think it means?’”

A special valentine’s date in 2020 arranged by Society staff took the relationship to another level.

“I got them flowers and a valentine’s cake. Then we got them a special lunch,” Lana says about the romantic meal.

Peggy adds, “We got it all served and everything. He said, ‘I’d like to say a prayer.’ That is what sealed the deal. I really liked that. I love you for that."

Love on lockdown

The new love faced a lockdown in March with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Safety protocols kept them physically apart for the next 49 weeks.

“He has a lot of faith, and he shares it. He would talk to me about God’s plan and how we need to follow it and we’ll have peace and contentment. It was probably the thing that helped me live through that time period because it was tough,” Peggy says.

That companionship is key at this stage of life.

“It means a great deal,” Doug says.

You could say their love story is pandemic-proof.

“Oh, it’s very important and these days, the pandemic brought it to a head. I think maybe if that hadn’t happened, maybe we wouldn’t have got as close as we are. We talked just about every day on the phone,” Peggy says.

'Makes me feel bubbly'

When in-person visits came back around last year, Peggy and Doug were more than ready.

Peggy says she had “butterflies in my stomach. Like I was a teenager."

Doug jokes, "so we can sit and visit. Give her a pinch on the butt once in a while."

“Just makes me feel bubbly."

When asked what she wants from the relationship, Peggy says she just wants to be with Doug forever.

“When God closes a door, he opens a window, but it’s up to you to find it. That is the truth,” Peggy says.

Holding tight to what they’ve found is where you’ll find Peggy and Doug.

“One day at a time. One day at a time. I’ve just always told him that my hope is I’ll just always be close to him. That’s my hope,” Peggy says. “I love you. Love you with all my heart and I love you more every day."

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