My mother (child of the ‘20s) typically lived in high-rise apartment buildings. In New York, San Diego and Houston (and a whole lot of places in between). Exiting the stairwell or elevator when visiting, I entered halls wafting with the smells of pot roast, fried chicken or maybe lasagna.
Most buildings housed single, widowed women, like my mother. The Census Bureau (census.gov) reports older adults, especially women, are more likely to live alone.
I asked mom once why they didn’t all get together and share meals. My mother made a killer macaroni and cheese — baked with grated cheddar, diced tomatoes and topped with Progresso bread crumbs. Yum! I was sure everyone would have enjoyed it.
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Studies show sharing — meals, conversations and time aid in mental well-being.
“Maybe they can’t make it as well as they use to and they don’t want anyone to know.”
As a kid, I thought everyone would want to get together — why would anyone want to prepare, cook and eat alone? I now think, like my mother who preferred the company of family (only) over strangers and friends, perhaps they enjoyed their solitude.
As Barbra Streisand sings in Lullaby for Myself : And your aim becomes to please yourself And not to aim to please
I am now the single, widowed woman living in a complex populated by several (older) ladies living alone. They are individual, connected units with single-story, street-level entry. No stairs, elevators or halls in evidence. No delicious odors to enjoy as I enter mine. Some, like me, still work but we are a community of single-dwelling units. Eating meals alone. The HOA tried a few times to organize community pot lucks but no one showed up.
Some of us cherish our personal time alone. I know my mother once said, “why would I want to pick up after another man?” But a neighbor recently said to me, “Sixty-one years of marriage and now I have to do everything alone. It’s been a rough year. I’m lucky I read and have TV.” I have shared books, if not meals with her.
Until her health seriously deteriorated, my oldest friend (also widowed) would invite me over for home-cooked lunch or dinner and we’d share meals and memories.
“I’m so excited,” she’d say in anticipation of our time together.
Like my mother found as she aged, my friend can’t prepare meals as she used to and has come to rely on microwavable meals. My mother was apt to forget and burn pots on the stove while my friend no longer has the energy to cut, chop or grate foodstuff. Now, on occasion, I’ll pick up favorite foods from nearby restaurants and we’ll break bread together. My friend now lives in a senior-only high rise. As I exit the elevator to visit, I experience a mixture of smells wafting in the halls, including cigarette smoke, weed burning (children of the '60s) and, yes, maybe baking lasagna.