On my Meals on Wheels route this morning, I was once again reminded how much I enjoy old people. Most of them. Not the grumpy kind. But as you might imagine, the people receiving the meals I deliver are always happy to see me and grateful that I've stopped by.
Vermont seniors -- the ones that don't move south -- are a tough, proud, independent, practical bunch. Most are probably former farmers with conservative political views. They have their own dialect and a noticeable accent, to be sure. And though this is a little stereotypical, the men wear old baseball (Red Sox or Yankees) or farm equipment caps and the women are likely to be quilters or some other type of crafter. Or famous for pies.
Today, when I drove into Mr. Maynard's yard, I noticed his ice fishing shanty behind his garage. Its paint was in better condition than his house's, and it was set on a pair of old skis. Mr. Maynard is 89 and can't hear very well. I know he's home because I can hear his TV blaring -- and I'm outside his trailer.
"Come on in. I got a story for ya," he says.
So I went in and turned down the TV so I could hear him.
"Did ya see my shanty out back? Well a few weeks ago, it was anchored out on the ice. We didn't do a very good job tyin' 'er down though. On that day when we had those 50-mile mile-an-hour winds, she broke off the anchor and slid away on those skis," he told me.
"How far away did you find it?" I ask.
"Oh, about three miles," he answers.
We laughed together. I mostly laughed at his telling of the story. It lit him up. But I was also highly entertained by the image of a runaway ice shanty and this nearly 90-year-old man, who hobbles to the door to collect his meal, chasing around Lake Champlain looking for it.
He told me a few more fishing stories, adding all sorts of old-man color, and he asked me to let him take my kids fishing.
"It'd be like a vacation to me. I'd love to teach those kids of yers. It'd get me out of these four corners, ya know?"
I coordinate the delivery of Meals for my town and sub when drivers can't make it. Every Monday, for probably the past ten years, two women, Betty and Shirley, have delivered the meals. One is in her upper 70s and the other in her 80s.
One really cold winter day, when the temps were below zero, I called Shirley and offered to help drive because it was really cold and snowy, and I have a four-wheel drive pickup truck that can get places their sedan might not.
"Shirley, do you want some help delivering meals today?" I ask.
"Well, it's pretty cold and blowy today, and I have a truck."
"Oh no, we don't need any help. We'll do just fine."
"Well make sure you wear your long johns," I remind her.
"Oh, I don't have any long johns. I don't need those."
I have no idea how someone lives for 80 years in Vermont without a pair of long johns. Like I said, they're a tough, independent old bunch.