Story by Emily Lopex
Photos by Loren Worthington
Despite their age difference of 34 years, Jolene De Tiege, 34, and Daniel Overman, 69, are an infectious couple.
“The reality is I’m 69 years old. You realize that, sweetheart?” Overman said. “But you know, it’s like if you said, we’re gonna put together an old man and a young woman with a disability, you’d have thought, ‘Oh, that’s not gonna make a lot of sense.’ But it does.”
Lacing their fingers together, it is apparent that the love between them is real. Newly engaged, with a wedding date set for April, you can hear the excitement in their voices.
Tiege has muscular dystrophy and uses a power wheelchair while Overman has multiple disabilities, including learning disabilities, a traumatic brain injury and complications from a previous stroke.
The two met at a play in March 2014 and were instantly attracted to one another. Their age difference was a barrier in the beginning as they both felt that initiating a relationship would cross a line. Tiege said she made the first move, inviting Overman to plays and often talking for hours at a local Starbucks. Overman said it happened organically, spending time together and texting until one day, that time spent together meant more.
They talk candidly about life together. While their disabilities don’t get in the way of leading truly remarkable lives, they have often found themselves in situations that challenge them. They look at each other and laugh, saying they question what they are doing when the car breaks down or acknowledge the reality that their disabilities each come with their own unique quirks. Overman jokes that one day, they will each have their own aide as they grow old together.
Their plans for the future include traveling the country in an accessible RV and chronicling their life in a blog. Currently, they maintain a Facebook page that shares their love story and journey together through life. They have a zest for life and are excited for what’s next.
If you ask Tiege what advice she would give to others looking for relationships, she would say to be open to all possibilities. Having a type gets in the way of cultivating a real relationship with a quality person. Overman would say to not let reality stop you. Sometimes, throwing practicality out of the window can bless your life.
It looks like they both took their own advice.
Emily Lopex has a reputation for being overly assertive and an almost irrational love of the chocolate-frosted donut. Her legislative advocacy journey started at 15, under the guidance of teachers who wanted to curb her enthusiasm for debate (read: arguing openly in class) into something more productive. Currently, Emily is an active participant in the disability community as the Advocacy Support Specialist for Ability360.