I was a little girl when my mom volunteered for Meals on Wheels. She helped in two different ways – delivering meals to several elderly folks at their homes or serving meals at a church to groups of older men and women. Everyone smelled like floral perfumes or medical creams. Little old ladies pinched my cheeks or patted my head. Men with bushy eyebrows poked at me with canes, probably trying to be playful, but scaring me just the same.
I remember smiling politely but trying to hide behind my mom when we first started. After a bit, though, I warmed up. I played checkers with my new lunch buddies at the church or colored pictures for the shut-in folks we delivered to. I’d guess that I probably became friendly with a few of the people, but there is one gentleman who sticks out in my memory. Mr. Applebee.
I can still point out the house Mr. Applebee lived in. Anytime I’m back home and drive by, I wonder how long he lived past our summer of bringing him lunch. At the time, the oxygen tank and coughing fits made me think he could die before we came back the next day. Now that I’m a little older, though, I realize he could have lived many years with whatever ailments he had. I hope that however his story ended, he was as happy as a grumpy old man could be.
Just like at the group lunches, I tried to hide behind my mom when we went to Mr. Applebee’s house. He had a furrowed brow that was a bit overgrown and a cane. He was always inside, sitting in a recliner with his cane next to him. I’m sure if he’d been sitting on the porch he’d have told me to get off it! It’s quite likely that he questioned why I was there, even though I don’t remember that. It just fits with his tough exterior, though.
Like any good curmudgeon, Mr. Applebee had a softer inside. After a time or two, I started staying in the living room to hear his stories rather than hide in the kitchen with mom. He didn’t seem to mind me sitting across from him and shared memories from his life with me. I don’t remember most of what he said, but I do remember being fond of him in the end. I remember wondering what ever happened to him. And I remember hoping I made a difference in his life. I still do.