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Tampa Bay area mother and daughter kept apart by pandemic reunite ahead of Mother's Day

“You step back, smell the roses, think about things and just hug and love like you’re never going to see them again.”

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — This Tampa Bay area mother-daughter-duo has spent many Mother’s Days together, but this year will certainly be one of the most treasured. 

Pam Haigh and Joan Lee Runyon, like many families, were separated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, Joan had just moved into her new home at The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay in St. Petersburg when the pandemic hit. 

“She had lived in the other building, where it was more independent coming and going and we had luckily just done a beautiful trip to Nashville for Thanksgiving with our daughter and her husband. Then Christmas and then we moved into memory care and we were just getting settled and having a really great time getting to know everybody and then one day I couldn’t come anymore,” Pam said.

To keep both parties healthy, Pam and Joan would have to visit through the glass.

 “I would visit you outside the window, teaching her to talk on the phone, so we would talk on the phone and wave,” explained Pam. 

The two say for them, the hardest part was having no physical contact to comfort one another.

“It was very hard knowing that no one was touching my mother. You know, with their own flesh skin, holding her hands, you know, I missed her,” explained Pam. 

The mom and daughter share quite a bond.

“I can look in her eyes and I can read her like you wouldn’t believe," Joan said.

“I’ve not moved away from here, so that was the longest period in my 60 years that I had been away from my mother or not been able to hug her," Pam said. 

They certainly got creative in the interim, though. For special occasions, Pam said she would bring cupcakes for her mom’s floor and birthday decorations. She said, “we would switch artwork. I would paint pictures for her and she would draw me pictures and write notes.”

Just recently, the two got to reunite for the first time in about a year. Pam filmed the reunion on her phone, surprising her fully-vaccinated mom with an in-person visit. 

Pam explained it was even more emotional than she had imagined.

“I had been holding all of this in and it was so wonderful and when I knelt down, because I was going to kiss her but you can’t you know with this (points to mask). And, when she kissed me on the head, that was so organic and it made me-- when I see that, I feel like that little girl that got that kiss from their mommy, which I haven’t had for a long time.” 

She said they're soaking in these moments now more than ever. 

“You step back, smell the roses, think about things and just hug and love like you’re never going to see them again,” Pam explained. “I was always in a hurry and making sure everything was right and controlled everything. You know, laundry and all of that. Now, I let all that go. I let everyone here take care of that and I just enjoy her and we’re just silly.”

This Mother’s Day weekend, the two plan to toast with mimosas and perhaps take a walk around the corner to Joan’s favorite British pub.

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