A Welcome Service
For about five years I delivered meals to senior citizens and disabled people as part of the “Meals on Wheels” program in our town of Kenosha, Wisconsin. The program, administered by Kenosha Area Family & Aging Services, is an excellent service that provides hot meals to home bound seniors and disabled people.
Meals on Wheels drivers deliver meals once a week, and route sizes are typically thirty to forty people, with routes usually taking around two hours to complete. During the time I helped out, meals were prepared at a number of local churches where drivers would pick them up, then go out on their routes.
I enjoyed my time delivering the meals. In addition to giving back to the community, I met many interesting people, and always enjoyed talking with them. Most were very grateful for the meal, and also for having someone to chat with, even for just a short time.
I had learned many years earlier that senior citizens are locked treasures, who often share their wisdom when given the opportunity. Although some were handicapped with health issues, they still enjoyed speaking with folks who visited. We would chat about the weather, local issues, and because of their advanced age, some would share their learned philosophy on life.
Being of advanced age, dealing with various health issues, some of the clients could be reticent and crabby at times, but very understandable under the circumstances. And people being people, having many different personalities, some dealt with their circumstances more positively than others.
Not Always Well Received
One person on the route berated me almost every week, fussing about the quality of the food, the temperature of the food and everything else she could think of. She was my least favorite client in five years of delivering meals, but I just had to grin and bare it. After a long period of delivering to her, she finally revealed what her main bone of contention was.
“They shouldn’t pay you people for delivering this garbage.”
“What?” (I wasn’t sure I heard her right)
“You’re overpaid for this!”
Now I’m burning.
“Ma’am, we do NOT get paid for delivering meals, we are all volunteers.”
Having no answer to that, she snatched the meal and slammed the door. And that’s how it went with her after that, no chitty chat, and no complaints. Door open, grab meal, door shut.
And that was fine with me. 😉
The Two Bills
The most memorable experience for me, during my five years of delivering meals was dealing with “the two Bills”.
Bill #1 was early on my route. He was a widower, living in a large home by himself. Family members would occasionally be there with him. Bill #2 was the last person on my route, living in a mobile home in a mobile home park. Also a widower, he too had a family member who tended to him, as needed.
But that’s where the similarity ended. Bill #1 was an unhappy fellow, chronically ill-tempered and complaining. The weather was never to his liking, the meal was not to his taste, and my visits were apparently an unpleasant intrusion to his weekly schedule.
Bill #2, on the other hand, was always cheerful, welcoming and happy.
“Nice to see you, great weather ain’t it?”
“Thanks for bringing my chow”.
He often invited me in for coffee, where we would chat about sports, hunting, fishing, and many other topics, including our mutual service in the U.S. military. It was a nice way to finish up my route.
Things went along that way for a few years, until coincidentally, both Bills passed away within about six months of each other, with Bill #1 passing first.
Later, several months before his passing, Bill #2 didn’t answer the door when I arrived to deliver his weekly meal. Normally, the agency would let us know if a client would not be home, so it was worrisome that he didn’t answer. I double checked with the agency and they had no knowledge of Bill being away, so I stuck around and kept banging on the door, concerned about his well-being.
Finally, I decided to force my way in, but it turned out the door was unlocked and I was able to walk right in. It was a bitter winter day, and upon entering I noticed it was very cold inside the trailer. I found Bill in his bedroom, in a bit of a stupor as a result of the frigid condition he was in. I threw a couple more blankets on him, got him up walking and called the agency, who immediately contacted his daughter. I fiddled with the wall thermostat, but the furnace would not kick in. The daughter arrived within about twenty minutes and took charge of him. He had pretty much come around once he warmed up a bit and looked to be ok. The daughter expressed her gratitude and took Bill home with her. The story didn’t end there, however as I was saddened when Bill passed away several months later.
A few weeks after Bill’s passing, I was notified by mail that he had left me his mobile home, in gratitude for what I had done. I was flabbergasted, certainly not expecting or wanting any reward or undue recognition for doing what anyone in my place would have done. I contacted his daughter and she told me no family member wanted the trailer, so they were fine with him gifting it to me. I expressed my sincere gratitude regarding Bill’s gesture, but asked her to donate the trailer to someone in need, which she eventually did.
And although I held no animosity toward Bill #1 for his cantankerous nature, I couldn’t help but reflect on how differently the two Bill’s handled the circumstances with which they were dealt.
I continued delivering meals on wheels for some time after, and eventually turned the route over to someone a bit younger. (And probably less crabby) 🙂 I did enjoy my time though, and still remember some of the delightful conversations I had with our senior citizens. (Of which I am now one)
And I still think of the two Bill’s now and then, reflecting on how differently people react to life’s circumstances.