The Widow and the Nurse

Part one: an intense bond between an aging widow and her nurse. Suspicious sons. Allegations of manipulation and rape. Stay tuned.

After breakfast Regina retired to the living room, where she'd sit in her favorite green chair. She'd read the paper more closely while Bridget washed the dishes, made the bed, and got Regina's clothes out for the day. Bridget turned on the shower, setting the water at the proper temperature.

Following the shower, the two usually exercised together. Sometimes they'd walk around the golf course. Other times they'd go downstairs to the workout room to ride the stationary bicycles for half an hour. They returned to the apartment around noon. Regina ate a cup of yogurt or maybe a cheese sandwich or a scrambled egg, then removed her hearing aids and napped until late afternoon.

While Regina slept Bridget prepared dinner, which the two would later eat together. When the dishes were clean, Bridget joined Regina in watching Wheel of Fortune followed by The Lawrence Welk Show. At about 8 or 9 o'clock most nights, Regina retired to bed, where she would read a book late into the night, usually even after Bridget went home at 10:30 or 11. Every night without fail, Regina telephoned Bridget to make sure she had made it home safely.

Click here to enlarge image
Click here to enlarge image
Bridget still wears the simple wedding ring Regina bought for her
Jennie Zeiner
Bridget still wears the simple wedding ring Regina bought for her

This pattern repeated seven days a week, every day of the year. Regina still paid all her own bills, so sometimes they'd go to the bank in Regina's 1991 Dodge Dynasty. Other days they might shop for groceries or visit the library. Most Sunday evenings they'd go out to eat with Regina's friend Edna Schonwetter. One Sunday when Bridget was running late on an errand, Regina left her a note on the back of a bank deposit slip. "Dear Bridget," she wrote in her shaky cursive, "We've gone to Turnbagel with Edna, left at 4:30 -- you can join us. Love, Regina."

In Bridget's care Regina's health and spirits improved dramatically, according to Daniel Greenhill and others. She stopped using the medication she'd been taking for depression for more than a year. Neighbors noticed a change in her appearance and demeanor. "Bridget took very good care of her," agrees Schonwetter.

Bridget developed a deep affection for her patient, an endearment she expresses in her typically understated way. "She's a good person," Bridget offers, after some thought. "She has a good heart. She's just a nice person in every way. You feel comfortable to be around her. She's not a bother to you. She's very nice to talk to. She's very sweet. She's interesting."

Regina developed an equally endearing bond with her nurse. One day the two women went shopping at a North Miami Beach jewelry store. After browsing the display cases for a while, Regina purchased a ring for each of them. Bridget's ring cost $450. It is a simple gold-and-diamond wedding band that she still wears on her ring finger. A few months later, Regina bought a $125,000 house in North Miami and let Bridget and her children stay there rent-free.

In December 1998, only six months after hiring Bridget as her nurse, Regina helped her new best friend turn 49 years old. "The morning of my birthday, she says she has a surprise for me," Bridget recalls. "I thought we were going out to lunch; that's what I thought. When she told me it was a car, I could not believe it. She said, "I'm going to buy you a car for your birthday.' I was shocked. I said, "A car, Gina?' She said, "Yes, honey, I'm going to buy you a new car for your birthday. You deserve it.' Just like that. She told the gentleman at the car dealership: "She deserves it.'"

The car was a new Infiniti G20. Bridget says Regina paid $25,000 for it, tax included. "She wanted to buy me a Jaguar," Bridget adds, "but I didn't want one. I thought they were too big."Regina's generosity may be best understood in the context of her unsettled family affairs. At the time Bridget entered her life, Regina was trying hard to maintain her independence, in particular from her son Joel, a dentist in Georgia. Bridget says Regina had returned to Florida from Atlanta, where at Joel's request she'd lived briefly -- and unhappily -- in a nursing home. Back in Aventura she was able to live basically as she pleased, as long as Bridget was there to help her.

Joel Greenhill declined to be interviewed for this article, stating only that his mother "is not in good health. I'm not interested in doing anything that would get her more upset." But the family's concerns were made quite clear in a letter his wife, Janet, sent to Regina last year.

"What has happened to you?" Janet Greenhill wrote. "What has happened to your feelings for my husband? Where is the woman who said, "I'll do anything for my Joel.' Is she gone forever? Your actions of late make us all wonder. We wonder why this woman, Bridget, whom you've known for a year, is more important to you than your own son, your granddaughters.... We wonder how you could surprise her with a car on her birthday but forget Jaclyn and Shannon's occasions. We wonder why your allegiance is to her though you know Joel's feelings about the situation. We wonder why, basically, you've told Joel that your affairs aren't any of his business.

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