Lucy Cavazos hasn’t missed Margaret Jones’ birthday in 20 years, but the coronavirus and resulting shelter-in-place orders threatened to break that string. Enter a 30-foot construction lift. On April 7, this piece of equipment, normally used by construction workers in hardhats, was re-purposed into an airborne birthday party with Lucy on its platform. It raised her up to Margaret’s’ second floor window from the courtyard of The Kensington Redondo Beach for a balloon-festooned 91st birthday celebration. The friends used walkie-talkies to celebrate through the glass of Margaret’s window, keeping their two-decade tradition alive and making it the most unique birthday celebration of their decades-long friendship.
Lucy, and Margie (as she calls her) have been friends since Lucy rented an apartment from her in 1994, despite a 44-year age difference. “Our friendship began almost from the beginning,” recalled Lucy. Margie, a real estate investor, would drop by her tenants to make sure things were going well and the two women would talk and talk.
“Margie never drove, so I started driving for her,” said Lucy. “Then she asked me to look after the apartment building where I lived. Eventually I became the property manager for all of Margie’s properties.”
The relationship went far beyond a business one. “She is really like a second mother to me,” she explained. “And when my two children were born, she became Grandmother to them.”
The birthday tradition for the two women runs deep. “It started when I was working for her. Margie insisted that we celebrate each of our birthdays for the whole month,” said Lucy. “So, April was her month and July was mine. Every day of my birthday month I’d come into the office and we’d go on a different adventure. I never knew where we’d be going to lunch. And everywhere we went she’d say, ‘You know it’s her birthday’ and insist they sing Happy Birthday to me. She expected the same treatment during her birthday month.”
Lucy had already purchased the pink and gold decorations for this year’s celebration for Margie’s 91st birthday, as well as ordering the cake and the cake topper well before the coronavirus changed everything.
“Obviously, this is not what we planned,” she said, but she was excited to be able to celebrate with Margie anyway.
Before the uplifting visit, Lucy dropped off the cake and the topper to the lobby so everyone inside could enjoy a piece. Then Lucy and her 25-year-old daughter, Amber, climbed aboard the construction lift that took them to Margie’s second floor window to add yet another birthday adventure to their list.
Creative family reunions have become the norm at The Kensington, an assisted living community near Los Angeles, since it closed its door to visitors on March 10 in response to the virus.
“Coming up with innovative ways to keep families in touch has been a key part of keeping our residents happy and involved,” said Robert May, The Kensington’s Executive Director. “We have been allowing family members to visit residents on the first floor through our ‘Courtyard Visit’ program where they chat through the glass using walkie-talkies. But, the second-floor residents haven’t had that luxury. The delivery of our new construction lift is about to change all that. We announced it on Friday night and the response has been overwhelming. Already families have signed up to take the airborne trip up to see their loved ones on the second floor. We are particularly excited that Margaret’s 91st birthday celebration will be the first.”
The family visits will allow one or two visitors to make the trip up to see second-floor residents. A trained operator will raise them up for 15- to 30-minute visits.
“In the midst of this outbreak it feels good to bring some happiness to our community,” said May. “Families and residents finally have a little something to celebrate. We are overjoyed to be able to keep Margaret and Lucy’s two-decades-long tradition alive.”
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