With his hand pressed to a small glass square in a wood framed partition door, James Halstead Sr. was as close to touching his granddaughter’s hand as he’s been in over three months.

Although physical contact was limited due to COVID-19 prevention concerns, residents and families were appreciative Wednesday when allowed visitation at the Lawton Fort Sill Veterans Center, 501 SE Flower Mound Road. Able to see each other within close proximity, conversations were still best had by phone.

It was good enough, according to James Halstead Jr.

“March is when all this hit,” he said. “They shut it down here like a lock.”

The son and his wife Judy and daughter Andrea’s hidden smiles were betrayed by twinkling eyes and jubilant voices as they spoke with Halstead. Halstead’s granddaughter said it meant a lot to have his hand so close to hers, even if separated by millimeters.

“I’m glad they set this up so we could see you,” Judy said during conversation with her father-in-law. “I hope they hurry and open this up so we can see you sooner. Just hang in there a little longer.”

Recreation Director Marilyn Woods said that Wednesday’s opening of these types of visitations “is a good start.” Considering the amount of time kept apart from their loved ones, she hopes it served as a moral boost for Halstead as well as other residents who were visited.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” she said. “(Halstead’s family) hadn’t got to see him in over three months.”

James Jr. said his father had been at the facility for about two years. Retired from the Army after almost 22 years in service, the elder Halstead also retired from the Civil Service after another 20 years.

“He’s been in Vietnam, Korea,” he said, “so he’s been around.”

The son was grateful that his father wasn’t in another care center when the COVID-19 cases began to swell.

“I’m so glad he was here when it hit,” he said.

A life of service was rewarded in a small way for Halstead this day. Although he gets to spend time each day in the facility’s outdoor garden, he said that’s nothing compared to seeing the blooms of his familial garden show up in person. Much like spring showers, he said it proved invigorating. It was something he’s been looking forward to like a kid does a birthday.

“It’s been a long time since I got to visit with them in person,” he said. “I can’t stand being cooped up.”

Halstead and his family members all are hoping that the virus precautions continue to level down so they can return to visits like the close-knit family they are.

“I can’t wait to get face to face without talking through a door,” Halstead said.

Judy said they were told that if there are no hiccups with COVID-19 numbers continuing to spike, it is hoped they would be able to return for an in-person reunion with the family patriarch.

Written by Scott Rains: scott.rains@swoknews.com.

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