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LI families finding ways to celebrate Father's Day amid virus restrictions

Visitors can see relatives only from their cars

Visitors can see relatives only from their cars at Parker Jewish Nursing Home in New Hyde Park making it very difficult for families on Father's Day weekend. Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware

The tears came right away. Tears of joy.

Kenya Farrar, 47, said she hadn't seen her father face-to-face in over 100 days, ever since the coronavirus forced his nursing home to lockdown and bar visitors.

But on Friday, as an early Father's Day treat, the Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation held drive-thru visits for residents and their families. So about 1 p.m., Farrar pulled her white Hyundai Tucson into the circular driveway in front of the facility in New Hyde Park and a staffer escorted her father, Vincent Hollins, to where he sat 6 feet away. Everyone wore masks.

"There's my baby," said Hollins, 79.

But then words escaped him as he looked into the car — which held Farrar, Hollins' wife, Essie, and Farrar's son and daughter — and the tears started falling.

"We love you, we miss you," Farrar, of Queens Village, said she told him. She was crying, too. "We can see your smile through your mask."

This Father's Day is different, coming during a pandemic that has shut down visits to senior care facilities, closed popular attractions and curtailed plans to get together with friends and family.

Long Islanders are making the best of it, conjuring up creative ways to celebrate Dad, making the most of a happy holiday after months of sorrow and sacrifice. 

Woodhaven Nursing Home in Port Jefferson also found a way for residents to get together with families without violating COVID-19 restrictions.

On Sunday, Woodhaven will slide open the glass doors in its dining room. Family members will sit outside the open doors and the resident will sit inside the threshold. Everyone will be masked and sit 6 feet apart, said community liaison Diana Pralgo.

It's a happy change for a place that has been on lockdown since mid-March.

Garret Campbell, 49, of Centereach, says he's excited to visit his mother and father, who he hasn't seen face-to-face since March. It's been a nervous time for the Campbell family, seeing how the virus has sickened and killed many seniors in nursing homes.

"Of course we've been worried. They're in a high-risk group," said the son, adding that he plans to bring gifts and cards from the grandkids. "This Father's Day is more important than in the past."

For his father, John Campbell, who celebrated his 91st birthday Friday, the day will be a big change from months of eating meals in the room with his wife, Loretta.

"I don't think I've seen anyone in months," he said. "This is terrific, terrific."

Elsewhere, many Long Islanders, still nervous about the virus, are finding safe, socially distant ways to honor their fathers.

Emmanuel Nigro and his boy Joey will be building an owl birdhouse with the help of live online instruction from the Sands Point Preserve. The preserve provided the precut cedar wood and nails and will have a staffer online on Sunday, he said.

Nigro, 55, of Brookhaven, said building the owl house is a way to have some fun with his 10-year-old after so much stress from the coronavirus. Joey has been home from school since March and he's been stuck in the house a lot, missing his friends. 

"We've been cooped up because of COVID-19," said the father, adding that the family is not yet ready to go out to a restaurant. "You want to keep everybody safe and have something fun to do."

The Carpio family of Commack has already been hit by the coronavirus, so they wanted to take precautions. Eddie Carpio, a corrections officer, caught the bug in March and then it passed to his wife and her mother. Luckily they had lighter cases, said his wife, Sofia Carpio.

This year, Sofia Carpio, 33, held a private beer tasting for her husband in the backyard on Friday, since her husband will be working Sunday. She focused on beers from local breweries.

The couple's son, Logan, was also on hand. He's only 2 1/2, so he didn't partake in any libations.

"It was a juice tasting for him," said his mother. "He had lemonade for the first time."

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