Meals On Wheels

Jameya and I started as a long distance relationship. We met on Planet Out.  For nearly a year one of us would fly between San Francisco and L.A. to spend a precious weekend together.  On one of my earliest visits, my exciting new lady warned me that we were going to do something “different” on Saturday morning   I thought on the plane that Friday night. What could it be?  This was one dynamic woman.I could only imagine the kind of adventure she had in store.

At eight o’clock the next morning, I was shoveling scrambled eggs and potatoes into cardboard containers at the local community center. My amore was by my side stacking the hot boxes in the back seat of her Saab.Some guy with firecracker hair was chucking loaves of donated bread on top. As we drove away to deliver the first of a dozen meals to house-bound elderly folks, we could barely see out the back of the car.

Now mind you, I’m a card-carrying party gal. A “been there, done that, on-the scene, club-hoppin’, about-town lesbian”.If it was crazy, I wanted to try it just to tell the story. No one could have told me that the weekends I spent delivering rubbery scrambled eggs and burnt potatoes to those fifteen grandma and grandpa’s would give me more to smile about later than anything I had done before.

It didn’t take me long to figure out we were delivering more than just nutrition to these seasoned citizens. Many of them had lost their spouses years before and lived alone.Most of them were unable to leave their homes at all. Our weekly deliveries became something of an event.My woman had a knack for making them giggle. She’d razz the women about being out dancing all night and the men about having girlfriends tucked away in their closets.We’d asked them about their lives, their families, their careers. They loved remembering earlier times when their families were together and they were out in world. They didn’t know or care that we were a gay couple.  They didn’t see the melancholy glances between us when they’d talk about losing their life partners.  We had no thoughts of sharing our personal relationship. These were members of a distant generation.  The gap was wide on two levels and we were content to enjoy each other from our respective sides.

Then 88 year old Iris came out to us.

One weekend, I was unable to make the trip and missed our Meals on Wheels adventure.One of our favorite grannies inquired as to my absence. We used to giggled as we drove up to Iris’ trailer.She always wore the most delighted smile when she saw us coming and that memorable pink robe. We could decipher her entire weeks menu by the stains on it.It didn’t bother Iris a lick.She was closing in on a century.Who cares about a few gravy stains? 

We often wondered about Iris’ past.Who was she when she was young like us?She had a lifetime in her gray-blue eyes.Every time I looked into them, I wondered about all the things they had seen.When she asked where I was that weekend, my other half gave the standard reply she had been giving all the old characters that day. “She’s drying out in the clink.”Iris giggled as she usually did.

“I bet you miss her”, Iris replied, “my partner has been gone for over thirty years.”  Then the 88 year old leveled a knowing gaze at the young gal before her and closed the invisible gap between generations.“She smoked…just like you Jameya.”

Jameya let the old woman’s words settle in. Then she smiled and said,“Yeah, I gotta quit.” And with that a young female go-getter and an elderly lesbian born before women had the right to vote became bookends of a common experience.

When my partner told me the story, she recalled seeing a incandescent flicker in those gray-blue eyes as Iris shared her most personal memory .“Then she paused,” Jameya continued, “ and looked off somewhere. I could tell that Iris was seeing her lover’s face somewhere in her mind’s eye.”

We only saw Iris a handful of times after that.We decided not to pry into her personal past even though we were dying to. We understood that in her time, being a lesbian was an uncomfortable taboo.  Iris would drop little comments here and there though. “Take good care of each other.” Or… “You two sure make a nice pair.”We relished those innocuous little remarks from our vintage sister. She gave us a sense of our place in history. She made us feel like we had roots.