I recently watched the movie “Harold & Maude” and its pretty similar with a more friendship factor with my close friend, Lillian, who I have known for twenty-three years and I went out to celebrate her 99th birthday. That is something!
Lillian has been living in Kings Park, NY now for about five years now and I have to say has been one of my best friends for over twenty years since I first met her at F.A.O. Schwarz, where we both worked at the time. I was the manager of the Children’s Department and Lillian was one of my sales associates. At 86, she could still ring circles around most sales people in the store, men or women, who were a third her age. There was just something about the spark of this woman that made all the employees and the customers gravitate around her. She is just a lovely person.
She even told me that at the facility her main purpose is to be a cheerleader for new residents. When I talk with her on the phone, she is still sharp as a whip but does have a tendency to repeat herself. At 99, she can do what she wants.
Kings Park, New York is located on the North Shore of Long Island just past Huntington and on the border with Smith Haven. The Assisted Living facility that she resides at is right near Sunken Meadow Park, one of the New York State National Parks. The whole area by the Long Island Sound is just beautiful. Many of the homes near the facility are picturesque and have beautiful views of the Sound.
For her birthday, she requested Chinese food, which I am happy to oblige. When you go to downtown Kings Park, there is a small but nice selection of restaurants and stores. The sad part is the area seems a little depressed with many open store fronts. The area still is quirky with some unusual things to see.
The last two times that I visited Lillian, I ordered take out food from Dragon House Chinese Restaurant, which is located in a strip mall in 118A Main Street in downtown Kings Park (See review on TripAdvisor). For a small take out place, the food is excellent. I enjoy ordering from the restaurant because the staff is friendly and helpful. Lillian has a good but not huge appetite so I ordered two dishes for us to share, the Sweet & Sour Pork and the Chicken with Garlic Sauce, both of which I highly recommend. Their roast pork fried rice is wonderful and their eggrolls are excellent. Its fun to watch Lillian chow down.
I got her birthday cake at Park Bakery, 112 Route 25 Street A, which is located two doors down (See review on TripAdvisor). I love going there! Their pastries, doughnuts and cakes are excellent and their employees could not be nicer. The bakery is a step back in time to the 70’s when the pace was slower and people actually talked to you.
I got a small strawberry shortcake for her birthday cake, a tray of cookies for her room to share with the other residents and nurses and then a flower cupcake for her to share at dinner with her tablemates. They do such a good job decorating cakes and the taste is amazing. Everything is so fresh and delicious. I even ordered their version of a ‘cronut’, which is a cross between a doughnut and a croissant and they fill it with fresh currant jelly and dip it in cinnamon-sugar. It is chewy, crisp and packed with tart flavor from the jelly. Not to be missed when stopping there.
After I got all the orders packed up and into the car, off I went for her birthday celebration. She was so happy I came to celebrate her birthday. It is so sad that most of her family has either died off or is so far away that they do not visit her. I found out from one the nurses that my December visit was the first one she had in almost two years. Her family lives so far away that it is tough for them to see her.
I always love the looks the other residents give me when I visit her. I can tell there is a tinge of jealousy in all the special attention I give to her. It is tough for most of these residents, whose families are too busy to visit them. This is why my time with her is precious. When you have been what we have been through over the years and what a true friend is you understand.
We had a really nice lunch together and the people surrounding us in the private dining room off the main on wished her a ‘Happy Birthday’. I could tell she really loved the lunch as Dragon House does a nice job with their combination platters. She just dove into the pork and the chicken dishes and loved their eggrolls. They make some of the best ones I have eaten.
I sang a quick ‘Happy Birthday’ song to her (I can’t sing) and we just laughed over the Strawberry Shortcake Birthday cake I bought. She was beaming after that. Park Bakery does such a nice job on their mini-cakes and it was just enough for the two of us and one other person who wanted a taste.
After lunch, we walked around the facility visiting some of her friends and then we sat in the private area off Independent Living and talked for the rest of the afternoon. I know Lillian knows what is going on around her and she makes the best of it. She knows that her family has not visited her in awhile. I love her upbeat attitude on life and the fact that she is so helpful and cheerful to the other residents.
The best part was that as we walked around the facility, many of the staff asked who I was and when I told them I was an old friend visiting her on her 99th birthday, everyone got excited and gave her a big hug and kiss and wished her well. One of the nurses from the other side of the building told her she would stop by with a balloon for her wheelchair. Lillian was loving the fuss made over her. She said to everyone that she was 99 years young.
She talked about her family, her jobs especially as a teacher, her husband and the people at the facility who were her friends. She has gotten used to the activities, the pace of living and the food. She also has a lovely room and gets out and goes to church, does arts & crafts and goes to movie nights. This facility keeps them very busy.
After our afternoon out, Lillian wanted to take a rest before her next activity before dinner and I had a two hour ride home to New Jersey. I said my goodbyes with a big hug and kiss and dropped the rest of the cookies in her room as a surprise.
Before heading home, I took a quick tour of Kings Park and walked the downtown one more time to look at the restaurant menus and take a tour of the historical park near the railroad on the history of Kings Park. Then I drove around the North Shore to take a view of the beauty of the area with its parks and long stretches of woods.
It was a nice afternoon out and I dedicate this blog to Lillian on her 99th Birthday! There are more surprised in 364 day for her 100th!
Happy Birthday Lillian!!