WALNUT CREEK (KPIX) — In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet the Bard used a balcony to symbolize the yearning of loved ones kept apart but, on Sunday, balconies were used to bring them together for Mothers Day.

“We’re celebrating Mothers Day a little different this year,” said Jennifer Pastora, executive director of Byron Park senior assisted-living community in Walnut Creek. “We’ve had to pivot some of our operations to accommodate covid.”

Because of the pandemic, families cannot enter the facility. So staff set up some areas outside where they could greet their mothers and grandmothers from first-floor balconies. The 30-minute visits were scheduled throughout the day and included champagne toasts and sweet treats for the clients and their families.

Eva Barakos is relatively new to assisted living and she said it’s been hard to deal with the isolation.

“You miss the friendliness of your family,” she said.

“That’s the hardest part, is not being able to touch your mother,” said her daughter Lynn. “Just the little things, just those little contacts that we all need.”

It has been difficult for clients and families alike but workers at Byron Park are doing all they can to soften the blow. Jean Sullivan was waiting at the balcony a half hour before her kids were scheduled to arrive.

“Well, I think it’ll be bittersweet,” she said. “It’s sweet in that people are taking care of me. The bitter part is: I’m tired of talking to myself.”

Jean served in the Navy in World War II, so she’s seen her share of tough times but she says nothing really compares to this.

“I’ve asked her, ‘Mom, what’s worse, this or World War II?’ And she said this!” said her daughter, Megan Sullivan-Mehlhope. “She said in World War II we were all together and I’m completely separate. We’re all separate.”

The families said they were grateful for their balcony visits even if it wasn’t the Mothers Day they had hoped for.

“There’s no hugging, there’s no touching,” Sullivan-Mehlhope said. “Everything is at a distance. But I’ll take it.”

That’s probably the best anyone can do right now. And, with apologies to William Shakespeare, everyone at Byron Park is hoping this Mothers Day balcony scene they’ll ever have to stage.

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