Daily Inter Lake
Lake View Care Center is a place of transition for many. Tragedy strikes, and as they recover they have a place where they can receive more professional care than they otherwise would at home. Some have lived there for years, while others measure their stay in weeks or months.
Regardless, winters are long and cold when one isn’t as mobile as usual. The center takes many steps to make the place feel like home and to help residents feel like they are a family unit, but there’s no disguising that many folks miss out on things that happen in the world outside.
On Sunday, one employee helped remedy that. Denise Worthington, now Worthington-Sisco, a CNA at Lake View, married her fiancé Todd Sisco in front of a crowd of around 30 residents, friends and family. Todd’s dog Killerina never strayed far from the couple and spent much of the event in Todd’s arms wrapped in a sweater with her tongue hanging out.
The residents gathered in a large room with windows overlooking a parking area with the wide expanse of Flathead Lake in the background. Vapors rose off the chilly surface in near-zero degree temperatures under a brilliant blue sky. The snow-covered parking lot was where the bride and groom made their vows and had their first kiss as man and wife.
The ceremony took place outside because they both loved the outdoors, Worthington-Sisco said. The bride and groom decided to forgo the normal gown and tuxedo for a pair of matching camo snowsuits.
The window that sheltered onlookers from the cold also kept the sound outside. As those assembled listened to the silent vows, some piped up with happy, loud jokes that evoked the feeling in the room.
“There better not be too much kissing,” one woman shouted. “Their lips will stick together.”
After a round of laughs, another woman said “you know why they got us all in here, right? So we can’t throw snowballs.”
It was the first time such a ceremony had taken place at the care center, and the opportunity for residents to plan and attend was a big bright spot, Worthington-Sisco said.
“The view at the top of the lake is spectacular,” she said. “The facility is totally decked out with all my people I work with, and it was just a joy for them to even think that are seeing a wedding. We would have just got married in front of a judge, seriously, but this is a good thing for the people. These people haven’t been so alive in a long time.”
She said they picked the date for the wedding because they wanted it to be easy to remember, so New Year’s Eve was an obvious candidate. Beyond that, she wanted to be able to have a party at the center every year on the anniversary. This would make that doubly easy.
“I wish I could do this maybe once a year or once every two years for this. These guys, just to add a little fun to their life is great,” Worthington-Sisco said. “It’s the dead of winter, and things can be sad. But they aren’t sad this year. There’s going to be a wedding.”
The dress code for the affair was simple: wear a white shirt with a red bandana. She said she knew all the residents would be able to get those, and still be comfortable and look sharp, an inclination that proved correct.
“Everybody can get in and everybody is the same,” she said.
Debbie Larson was one of the residents that made the trip from her room down the hall to watch the ceremony. She broke her hip a while back, and has been living in the center for a few months until she gets well enough to go home and be on her own while her husband is at work.
She said that while what she wants most is to accomplish her recovery goal, events like this make what can be a painful process more bearable.
“She’s a real nice lady,” Larson said as the bride and groom made their way inside to cut the cake.
Worthington-Sisco describes herself as a workaholic, and the ensuing few minutes make the diagnosis appear apt. Disregarding tradition, Worthington-Sisco and her new husband made sure all the residents had slices of cake before they settled down to eat their own. They didn’t feed each other, they just ate and commiserated with the other members of the center family and looked quite content.
Both members of the new couple are 55 years old, and while they weren’t born here, they’ve been Montana residents for many years. They first met seven years ago, when they were both married to other partners. Around two years ago, Todd’s wife passed away and Denise got divorced.
Denise owns property in Big Arm, where she was living alone and commuting around the lake to work in Bigfork. Todd lived near Echo Lake. Neither of them liked being alone, and what began as a friendly relationship years ago was reignited.
“Him and I, we’re soulmates from a long time and we get along,” she said. “We’re too old to be courting for years, and I love him dearly and when he got on his knees and asked me to be his wife it just struck my heart.”
Todd is a man of few words, but his actions do speak loud. Throughout the ceremony the only time his dog left his arms was so he could get married to his new partner and when he was passing out cake and silverware to the center residents.
He said that when his fiancé brought up the idea of having a ceremony at the center, he was on board from the start. It seemed the alternative may be getting married in front of a judge, and this seemed a nice way of sharing his newfound joy with other people that he knew also made Denise’s life special.
“I think it’s nice, its all those old people in there I think it will be something great to see,” Todd said. “It’s something different which I like, I like to be different than everyone else. I’m just really happy that I met her.”
Reporter Peregrine Frissell can be reached at (406) 758-4438 or firstname.lastname@example.org.