Most evenings after work, Charlie Johnson used to step inside Whispering Pines Assisted Living in Anoka.
He knows it’s important for his father, 88-year-old Bernard Johnson, to be able to see his son every day. There’s no doubt in Charlie’s mind it helps his father better cope with chronic lung and heart issues.
The facility announced Friday that as a precaution, visitors would no longer be allowed inside amid coronavirus concerns. Johnson said he understood, and began looking for his lawn chair.
“He likes to talk to me and I know he misses me when I am not around and he gets worried if I’m not here. So this way, I’m here,” he said.
Monday evening was the third night a window separated the father and son as they chatted on their phones.
“I will see if I can bring you some ice cream treats later,” Charlie Johnson told his father. “The chocolate caramel ones you like.”
Charlie Johnson repeated his words several times because his father sometimes has a hard time hearing him.
“This way I am hoping he can read my lips,” he said.
After a staff member posted a photo of the duo talking on their phones through the glass, more than 800,000 people had shared the post on Facebook as of Tuesday night.
Charlie Johnson said he feels lucky to be able to see his dad at all — because “some people don’t have that,” he said.
Johnson followed in his father’s footsteps with a career as a machinist. Sitting in his fold-up chair with his feet propped up on the windowsill, he briefed his dad about work. Then, the conversation shifted to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It may be a few weeks before I can go back inside and see you,” he told his father.
The entire conversation lasted about 10 minutes. The days when his father isn’t able to talk for very long are increasing. It’s another reason Charlie Johnson will keep coming by to see him.
“I am thinking of hanging a bird feeder outside the window this spring so he can watch the birds,” he said.