NISKAYUNA — At a time and place where normalcy is returning only recently and only in baby steps, trimming a Christmas tree in late May makes sense if you know the back story.
Ingersoll Place Assisted Living on Thursday had a Special Day In May celebration — a combination Memorial Day observance, birthday celebration for the institution founded in 1924 and a reboot of Christmas 2020, when residents were restricted to their rooms and couldn’t see each other or the Christmas tree in the main lobby.
A relative gave Executive Director Caroline Thompson three bins of red, white and blue patriotic-themed tree trimmings left over from the post-9/11 Christmas of 2001. The Ingersoll Christmas tree became a Memorial Day tree.
The residents missed not having their Christmas celebration in December, and combining the celebrations was a logical move.
In the five months since Christmas, a second wave of COVID infections in the region peaked and subsided; the facility’s residents reached a 100% vaccination rate; state and federal guidelines on distancing were relaxed; and the facility reopened to visits by family and friends.
“I think it’s the first step toward a future return to normalcy,” Thompson said. “We’re still six feet apart.”
And they are still masked. A fever check and hand sanitizer await all who enter the facility on Consaul Road.
Ingersoll residents accounted for five of the 22 confirmed COVID deaths among assisted living facilities in Schenectady County over the past 14 months. But with extensive vaccination among residents and to a lesser degree staff at these and other adult care facilities, things are looking up.
Ingersoll gained three new residents in the last two weeks, and could let their families accompany them inside to get them acclimated, which is important for some elderly who are transitioning away from living in their own homes.
Anita Dunlavey, president of the Ingersoll residents’ council, said she was glad to see the Memorial Day tree.
“I thought it was a great idea,” she said. None of her fellow residents questioned the concept, either. Christmas 2020 “was just like any other day,” she said.
Her late husband, Herbert, served in the Army during World War II.
Dunlavey, an Amsterdam resident, has lived at Ingersoll nearly seven years. The pandemic wasn’t entirely a lost time — she took up coloring and did artwork during the quarantine period in her room — but she never contracted COVID and she’s glad to be able to have visitors again.
“My son from California, he surprised me on Mother’s Day,” she said, “I was just thrilled.”
Others won’t visit, just yet.
“I have family who won’t come to see me because they have family members who are compromised,” said Dunlavey, who’s 85. “I know another person who’ll visit their parents but won’t eat in the same room with them.
“Once everybody gets the vaccination …”
Charles Wesley Root, formerly of Troy, is one of the newest residents at Ingersoll, moving in just a month ago.
He grips a visitor’s hand in a strong handshake, perhaps oblivious that it’s still a taboo for some people or confident in his vaccinated safety.
Root, who served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps, liked the patriotic theme of Thursday’s event.
“I love the guys I served with,” he said.
He said he’s no longer in touch with his comrades, who would be in their late 70s and early 80s like him, and some of them probably are no longer alive. Memorial Day is a day to remember those we’ve lost.