April 6, 2020
REDONDO BEACH, CA–Lucy Cavazos hasn’t missed Margaret Jones’ birthday in 20 years, but the coronavirus threatened to break that string. Enter a 30-foot construction lift. On Tuesday, this piece of equipment, normally used by construction workers in hardhats, will be re-purposed into an airborne birthday party with Lucy on its platform. It will raise 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 will use walkie-talkies to celebrate through the glass of Margaret’s window, keeping their two-decade tradition alive. It may just be 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,” recalls 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,” recalls 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,” said Lucy. “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,” says 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’s excited that she will be able to celebrate with Margie anyway. “I’ll drop off the cake and the topper to the lobby so everyone inside can have a piece,” she said. Then Lucy and her 25-year-old daughter, Amber, will climb aboard the construction lift that will take 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 they closed their 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 lift arrives at the community today, and workers will set about gathering the necessary safety gear to protect the anticipated airborne visitors. They will work round the clock to make sure the lift is ready for Margaret’s birthday celebration on tomorrow. Other family visits will follow, allowing 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. It’s going to be a great day for smiles. You might say that piece of construction equipment is about to give us all the lift we’ve all been needing.”
The Kensington Redondo Beach is an assisted living and memory care residence community that partners with HealthPRO® Heritage, to offer comprehensive rehab services, wellness opportunities, and health education.