Table for One

Last Thursday I was co-pilot and navigator for the retired man I live with while we delivered Mobile Meals to home-bound seniors. A few are couples, most are single men who take a while to get to the door. We had to ask at each stop if they needed a meal for Thanksgiving. Over half did, just for one person.

A haunting picture lives in my brain these days: an older man in a white undershirt watching the Macy’s parade eating a reheated Thanksgiving dinner on a metal tv tray (remember those?) with a carton of milk like we had in elementary school.  The meal was delivered about 9:30 Thanksgiving morning by a nice man with a Mobile Meals sign on top of his car.  That picture is slowly breaking my heart.

Every third Thursday of the month, the retired man I live with and I stick a Mobile Meals sign on top of the white Camry and deliver a hot meal sealed in a little black plastic tray (like a Lean Cuisine), mostly to older men living alone but sometimes to a couple still living together or an older woman.  (I’m 61–they are older, not old.) The meals are prepared by Golden Corral and packed in expensive special coolers so they stay hot.  Last Thursday we delivered Salisbury steak, rice, mixed vegetables, hot apple slices, milk, juice, and a peanut butter cookie.  The meals ride in the coolers, one hot, one cold, in the back seat.  They all seem to smell the same, no matter what’s in the tray.

The retired man I live with takes the meals to the front door.  Often the recipient is waiting and opens the door as he approaches.  I wait in the car and put the next address into the GPS.  He gives me a report.  One man must be ex-military–he is always sharply groomed and the part of the apartment visible from the front stoop is clean and tidy.  Last week he didn’t get a meal.  Our sheet says he is in the hospital. Another man’s place smells awful and I can see his baggy, used-to-be-white undershirt as he reaches for the food.  A man who takes care of his wife writes a poem and gives us a copy each month.  His faith spills out on the page.

One person didn’t answer the door last Thursday and we didn’t know if she was in the hospital or visiting family.  We gave that meal to a man standing with a cardboard sign on the corner near Panera, at the Target-PetSmart-Payless Shoes shopping center.  We had no forks or knives, but he gratefully took the food.  “It’s hot!” he said about the food and he smiled and blessed us and said “It’s a good day because God let me get up this morning.” We were quiet for a bit as we drove off.  I don’t think he cared how it smelled.

Once we tried to give a leftover meal to a woman holding a cardboard sign standing on the corner beside Chik Fil-A, not far from the Whole Foods parking lot.  I rolled down my window, asked if she wanted the meal and she asked me what it was. I told her (it was meatloaf, I think) and she said “No.” Not even “No, thanks.” I was speechless. We found a skinny man (a boy?) on another corner and he was hungry and even had his own plastic fork and knife.  He smiled and said, “Thank you!”

Thanksgiving is this week.  We will drive to our daughter’s house in Raleigh and get there around noon.  Our son-in-law will be creating a feast, my daughter will be setting the table with a white tablecloth, china, flowers and candles.  I’ll contribute a casserole dish of corn pudding and homemade Blueberry Cranberry Sauce.  We’ll visit with some of our son-in-law’s relatives that we only see once or twice a year and get in line to play with our almost-2-year-old granddaughter.  My daughter wants us to go around the table and share memories of my brother who died this summer.  He was always part of our holidays.

Before we go to Raleigh, the retired man I live with and I will gather with many other volunteers in the parking lot at the Greensboro Coliseum to pick up meals to deliver to clients of Triad Health Project. I’m on the Board of Directors for this non-profit that serves people who are HIV positive.  The Mobile Meals volunteers will be there, too, in another line.

Two restaurant owners started over 20 years ago fixing Thanksgiving dinner for anyone who wanted one .  The project has grown into a massive community volunteer effort.  So many people have offered to help that they have a waiting list for volunteers! Meals will also be served on real plates at tables with real tablecloths and centerpieces a 2 churches (one is our church) and Urban Ministry’s Potter House.  Church vans with volunteer drivers will make a couple of stops downtown and carry folks to the places with food and then take them back downtown nurtured and fed.

Our own Thanksgiving feast is easier to swallow when we know so many others are eating well, too.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all!

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Published in: on November 26, 2013 at 10:45 am  Comments (8)  
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Vicks VapoRub and Dark Chocolate

I smeared Vick’s VapoRub on my chest and the bottoms of my feet, put on a pair of heavy socks, laid my head down on 2 pillows and tried to go to sleep.  Before bedtime I tried lemon/ginger tea with honey, straight teaspoons of honey, enough mentholyptus cough drops to make me anxious about my next dentist appointment, and several squares of dark chocolate.

Why not?

I had a bad cough from pneumonia, even after the antibiotic kicked in and I felt some better.  No cough medicine helped.

I googled People’s Pharmacy, a public radio show that originates down the road in Chapel Hill.  It’s a safe site for natural, old-wives-tale-type remedies.  I like to just wander through their website. Here is the link I found: People’s Pharmacy Cough Remedies.

That 1st night of Vick’s and ginger and chocolate I took no cough medicine.  I slept for 10 hours without much coughing.  My daughters with babies were jealous.  I tried all the remedies the next evening, too.  I coughed some.  Third night, I was no better than before the home remedies.  Did it work at all?  I’m really grateful for that one good night.

People cough everywhere I go.  We should all agree not to leave our houses for 2 weeks.  Buy groceries like it’s going to snow a foot or more. (That’s a BIG deal in NC.) Have on hand whatever you’re addicted to.  I think snow calls for Doritos and ice cream, myself.  Stock up on books and movies.  Then at a specific time on a specific day, the whole country shuts down.  We could all rest and get well and stop trading germs around.

Obviously I write as a 60-year old woman who lives in a big house with a retired man who takes naps and can cook.  I would never have suggested this when we had 2 little kids.  I don’t know what we’d do about the potential for child and spousal abuse.

Ok, I need to rethink this.  Maybe I’ll just quarantine myself.  You all do what you want, but don’t come to my house.

PS:  Vicks VapoRub was invented right here in Greensboro, NC, where I live.  Cool, huh?  Click here for more odd uses.

Published in: on January 23, 2013 at 4:30 pm  Comments (7)  
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Got Purple?

Our wooden front door is purple.  Not lavender or dark purple.  Real purple.  Sherwin Williams “African Violet.”

The retired man I live with has a goofy streak I love.  We picked the door color together.  It looks great.

Our young stay-at-home-mom next-door neighbor emailed us, said she loved the color and asked what kind of paint we used.  She wants to paint her door, too.  I wonder what her husband thinks of that idea.  They haven’t painted yet.  They’re still too young, I guess, for goofy.

The retired man who gets bored easily created a unique sculpture in the living room.  It started life as a wrought iron coat tree.  The arms stick out too far to be useful for coats and the iron arms are at an unsafe eye level for most people.  I move below them, but it’s still a bit scary.

He decided last December it could be our Christmas tree.  He draped little white lights around and up and down.  He hung some colored balls.  It was actually quite cool.  We did get a little bitty real tree for Adaline to decorate.

The iron tree now has an odd assortment of “ornaments”:  A pink and white doll-size baby bottle, an 18-inch plastic star with a painted-on face and green and red striped knee socks, a slightly rusted metal angel, a blowfish about 5 inches tall made from bright orange wire, an old Easter basket, and a set of wooden monkeys that hang on random branches.  He still adds to it every so often.  He could maybe sell it as folk art at some street festival, but we want to keep it for ourselves.

He started working on our front yard when he retired.  He had a big natural area dug out and planted bushes and flowers.  Our daughter and granddaughter planted pumpkins in the natural area a month or so ago. The retired man who relaxes poorly created a beautiful strip alongside our sloping driveway–rose bushes, shrubs, a Celtic cross, and one big sunflower that must have come from a seed dropped by a bird.

He added a full-size flag pole in the middle of the front yard and flies a changing set of flags.  We fly Pittsburgh Pirates, Guilford Courthouse (a Revolutionary War site down the road from us), United States, a Buddhist prayer flag, Ecology (it’s green), and the state flag for NC.  Adaline, 2 1/2 now,  points to the Pirates flag and growls “Aaaaaarrrgh!”

The retired man I live with and I laugh a lot.  Even when I’m really angry, he can sometimes get me to laugh.  Our marriage, like any couple, has bumped over a few rough spots.  We share an appreciation of life’s absurdities and a love of goofy things.  It helps.

PS:  A few months after I wrote this, the next door neighbors painted their front door a bright, almost-neon-y green.  Goofy may be catching.

Published in: on August 13, 2012 at 8:19 pm  Comments (12)  
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The Retired Man I Live With

He retired 3 years ago.  I knew it would be an adjustment for both of us.

We worked together for the first year or so of his business.  I learned he has ADD.  He learned I don’t like to be ordered around.  We are both oldest children and both like to be in charge.  It did not go well.

The retired man I live with is always “doing.” His retirement hobby is puttering.  He loads and unloads the dishwasher, vacuums up the clumps of dog hair Sydney drops this time of year, and often fixes dinner.  Our yard is beautiful.  He painted the upstairs bathroom and put in new stick-on tile flooring.  He does his own laundry.

He takes care of me on days when my rheumatoid arthritis acts up or zaps my energy.  He has patience I never expected.  I feel loved.

His busy energy permeates my house and makes me crazy.

I am an introvert who requires solitude and quiet.  I never had long-term sadness about the “empty nest.”  They didn’t go far and I enjoyed the empty house while Mike worked.

I miss my empty house.  I miss my solitude and quiet.

I am spoiled rotten by the retired man I live with and I complain that he is always around.

Okay.  I know.  The only thing I have control over is myself.  And I’m better than I used to be at having the wisdom to know what I can change and what I cannot.

I’ve known the retired man I live with for 40 (!!) years.  He is not going to change.

I’ve never liked those little iPod ear-bud things.  But I think I’ll try being like a teenager and play some mellow music I like and tune out the active energy seeping up the stairs to my office.  I might even stuff a towel in the space between the door bottom and the floor, like you’re supposed to do if there’s a fire.

Got any other suggestions?

“Always do your best,” they said.

I read this chapter-title in a book this morning:

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

I ate lunch downtown with a friend today. When I got home, I moved my laptop to my office to write.  I spent the next hour checking email, catching up on the other blogs I read, and trying to figure out if I’ve already written about procrastination.  I don’t think so.

I have lists of things I want to do. Where and how to start is the easy part. At least 7 “How To Organize” books sit in random bookcases in my house.  I’ve read them all.  I even have one called Making Room for God, Clearing Out the Clutter.  It lives in the pile of books beside my bed, I think.

I know about purging and sorting and donating and “when did you last wear/use this?”.  I pulled clothes off hangers and out of drawers.    Should I take them to Goodwill, Salvation Army, the Disabled Vietnam Vets’ thrift store or the halfway house for moms with addictions?  What’s the best thing to do?  They’re still on the floor of a closet in my bedroom.

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

I explored The Container Store in Raleigh for the 1st time in April.  Oh. My. Goodness.  I drooled over the elfa (“Everything Can Be Organized”) Storage System.  It can be custom-designed for closets, pantries, drawers, and offices.  I bought a few (cheap, not elfa) boxes and containers for my office shelves and drawers.  What’s the best way to use them?  Some (not all) are still in the bag behind the closet door.

Perfectionism–>Procrastination–>Paralysis

My husband has very little patience with people who put things off.  That’s not his way.  One way he deals with stress is to reorganize the garage.  He used to do the same thing to his office.  He retired 2 years ago.

Now it’s my kitchen.  I organized my kitchen 20 years ago.  Cooking tools always lived in the same place and I didn’t have to think much to cook.  Now, like a stupid cartoon, we fight over where my casseroles and pot lids are and whether I ever actually use loaf pans (“I might”, I say.)  Random items completely vanish.  I am not in control.

I’m really afraid he will go to my office next.

What Comes After Middle Age?

I’m 59.  I doubt if I still get to claim middle-age.  I have crossed over from young to not-young.

Here’s how I know:

–At the Moses Cone Folk Art Craft Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I watched a potter work.  Her biographic information said she was born in 1960.  She didn’t look young (at all), but she was 8 years younger than I.

–At lunch on a beautiful day in the mountains, we sat outside.  More than one table held a couple with at least one head of gray hair.  It was a Tuesday.  They are probably retired.  So are we.  And my hair is gray.

–As we drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we listened to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.  And knew all the words and even, sometimes, knew what the next song was before it started.  (Hey, it was on an iPod, not a CD.  That should help some.)

–After 39 years together, it’s hard not to repeat stories as they come to mind.  Sometimes we don’t even care if we’ve heard them on every other trip to Grandfather Mountain.  We still think we’re funny.

–39 years together??

Published in: on June 20, 2011 at 5:58 pm  Comments (4)  
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