Grandma and Grandpa were furious when Mom signed them up for Meals on Wheels almost 20 years ago. And guess what after they started eating better they felt better, too. And so it was with some excitement and gratitude that I called the local Meals on Wheels (MOW) to volunteer last week.
According to their website, www. mowaa.org, MOW provides nutritious meals and other nutritional services to men and women who are elderly, homebound, disabled, frail or at risk. And any MOW volunteer has job security the number of Americans age 85 or older is expected to number 19 million by 2050.
I picked up six hot and cold meals at the gathering point on a sweltering Thursday morning. The hot lunch meal featured sliced ham, canned peas, and something brown I couldnt quite figure out. The cold dinner meal included a small sub sandwich, a Styrofoam cup of diced, canned peaches and a small bag of potato chips. Each bag also contained two cartons of milk.
Claire, a Thursday volunteer for 18 months, drove us to the six destinations. With one exception, all of the MOW recipients lived in small apartments in old buildings without air conditioning. We walked up a tree-lined sidewalk to a modest brick apartment and knocked on the door. A skinny woman in a thick robe answered and broke out in a huge grin. Whos this? Whos this? she kept asking Claire, her eyes glancing down in the unfocused look of the blind. She found my hand and gripped it with a squeeze that would have crushed it 10 years ago. Hi there! she boomed. Im Anna Mae! Ive been on this earth for 89 years and I aint goin nowhere! Anna Mae laughed. Claire and I laughed with her. We dropped off her meals and left, determined to be just like Anna Mae when we reached 89.
That afternoon my fiance and I arrived at the Ritz Carlton for our wedding cake-tasting appointment. We were ushered into a private room resplendent with linen, silver and enough caffeine and refined sugar to guarantee migraines for the rest of the week. Four hours beforehand I delivered bland, basic food to help keep six people alive and healthy. The confections in front of us now were completely unnecessary and devoid of any nutrients (although rich in symbolism and taste)!
We slogged through pralines, ginger-infused carrot cake and finally a wonderful almond pound cake, accompanied by a deep sense of gratitude to have a choice in what we eat. And all the while I thought of Claire, and all those like her, who ignore over-inflated gas prices and oppressive heat to bring food, service and smiles to grandmas and grandpas all over the country.
Give it a try find your nearest Meals on Wheels and brave the heat.
Get out and give back.
Jane Hess is a free-lance writer. Please send your comments, volunteer experiences and suggestions for future columns to www.getoutandgiveback.blogspot.com.