Some elderly in Garrett face long, lean winter

This Just In...

November 05, 2001|By Dan Rodricks

SEVERAL WINTERS ago in Garrett County, I saw a small, old Popeye-faced man hitchhiking in high winds along a road banked in big snow. He was chilled to the bone when he got in my car, and his hands trembled as he moved a pipe to his lips. I gave him a ride to his tiny house at the end of a wooded lane near the Youghiogheny River. The house was just a couple of cluttered rooms with low ceilings and spare furnishings; a Warm Morning stove provided heat. The old man was pleasant as can be, and I sat with him a while because he seemed to desire the company. He did not strike me as particularly well fed, but it didn't seem appropriate, in the time I had with him, to ask many questions about his life there. He was so grateful for the ride he demanded that I take something - a wooden hat stand - home with me.

I did as he wished but remember thinking that, in a pinch, the hat stand could have been used for fuel to heat the old man's house, though wood seemed to be the one thing he had plenty of.

That encounter came to mind the other day as I was apprised of distressing news from the most rural corner of Maryland: that the Meals on Wheels program there, which provides a hot midday meal to about 150 frail, elderly Garrett residents, has been curtailed from five days a week to three. An annual grant of $50,000, from the National Meals on Wheels Foundation and Philip Morris Co., was not renewed, leaving, as of Oct. 1, a large hole in a program with an annual budget of $182,000.

Meals on Wheels in Garrett is not like the program around Baltimore. Its clients live on the outskirts of the outskirts. The delivery of meals, often to elderly women in poor health and living alone in modest homes - some little more than shacks - is costly and, in those long Garrett winters, daunting.

"Even with all we've done, there are still people in the county who we're not reaching because of where they live," says Adine Brode, director of the Area Agency on Aging in Oakland.

There are federal and state funds for the meals-delivery program but obviously not enough to keep it going every day. I could suggest that the U.S. government airdrop rations into Garrett, as it has done in Afghanistan over the past month, or that Maryland's U.S. senators get on the stick and find some emergency food funds to keep the program going five days a week. But, in the meantime, a more practical solution - the one we keep falling back on as Washington primes more tax breaks for corporations - is the suggestion of private donations. You could make a donation to the "Senior Helpings" program through Brode's agency (301-334-9431) or the purchase of a $50 ticket to a fund-raiser Nov. 16 at Grantsville Senior Center.

Hey Hon Man

Sometime during our panic attacks and miseries of the past few weeks, Hon Man returned. One night a couple of weeks ago, he apparently darted from his car and stapled one of his "Hon" addenda to the "Welcome to Baltimore" sign on Baltimore-Washington Parkway. One of the placards stayed up for a few days before someone - State Highway Administration and other Hon Haters, the usual suspects - tore it down. These days, how anyone can remove anything that gives us a smile - anywhere, at any time - is beyond me. But anyway, Hon Man, please know that someone appreciates your efforts.

A shared revelation

Cereal Mom went to the Meyerhoff for a BSO concert recently and stepped in line to experience what has become a commonplace ritual in post-9-11 America.

"The security guard at the entrance to the hall was nervous about searching my bag," CM says. "But I just opened it all the way and told him to go through it if he wanted. A policeman on the other side of the room caught my eye and smiled at my willingness to have my bag searched. I said to the security guard, `This is really awful, isn't it?' And with this sad look, he said, `No lie,' then seemed a little happier after that and said, `You enjoy yourself.' It was as if all three of us realized in that brief but powerful little moment that this is how we're going to have to live for a while, that we're all in this together and that's how we'll all get through it."

Schaefer's memories

Leftovers from lunch at D'Alesio's with new octogenarian William Donald Schaefer.

On the late property hoarder "Honolulu" Harry Weinberg: "He was known as not charitable, but when he died he gave all his money to the poor, and everybody now knows the name Weinberg. I went to the [Baltimore Museum of Art] with him and I said, `Harry, how about $50,000 for the art museum?' He said, `No.' I said, `Oh, come on, how about $25,000? How about $5,000?' He wouldn't do it. He said, `I don't give any money to art.' And in his will that's what it said: `None of my estate is to go to art and culture because there are enough tuxedo people that will pay for it.'"

On having lunch with the late Abel Wolman, mastermind of safe public water systems: "He was a great, great man. When he was 85 or so, he'd jump in a plane and go to China or India to take care of the water supply. He made you talk about you, and in the meantime you were learning from him. We'd go to lunch and he'd eat a sandwich with one piece of cheese, and two little pieces of bread, and it would take him an hour to eat that sandwich."

TJIDAN@aol.com is the e-mail address for Dan Rodricks. He can also be reached at 410-332-6166.

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