Coming to Wesley Homes, Part 6

Getting the Support I Need by Pat King, Wesley Homes Des Moines resident Of all the thoughts that bombarded me as I woke up, the most ridiculous was this: I cannot eat here. I simply can’t go to that intimidating dining room with its elegant chandeliers and face a room full of strangers. “So don’t go,” I told myself. In all fairness, Wesley intended that the floor hostess go with me, but she was ill. I could hardly believe my reticence. I’d wanted to come here. One of the big drawing cards was meals cooked by other hands, and now the big moment had arrived. Instead, I opened the fridge and pulled out leftover Thai. My Sunday Mass of choice was 5:30 p.m. because I was part of the liturgy team. But 5:30, and familiar faces, seemed a long time away. Call one of the kids, I told myself. No, they had done too much; they would all be tired. I could walk or read or sleep or pray. I did nothing. The phone rang. “Hi, Mom, it’s Anne. I’m bringing Mexican tonight, okay?” What a relief. “I’ll be home from Mass at 7:00,” I told her, now looking forward to my day and first Mass at Wesley. At 1:00 p.m., the doorbell clanged, sort of Avon calling in a strident key. There were Dave and John. “We’re taking you out for dinner.” I welcomed them in, so glad to see them. Did they even guess how glad? Later, Anne and I sat on the deck and watched as the night began to glow. Mt. Rainier looked like strawberry ice cream; Puget Sound sparkled like wedding punch. “This is a wonderful place, Mom; you are going to be so happy here,” Anne told me. “I know you’re right, honey,” I replied. My mind was still full of the unknowns in my future. Finally it was bed time. “C’mon, Smokey, let’s pray night prayers.” With that familiar cue, he jumped on my lap. My first day as a Wesley Homes resident was over. When Lynn, the marketing person, had shown me the dining room, she’d said, “Oh, yes. We have assigned seating. It changes every two months.” On Monday, when I knew I couldn’t put off going to the dining room, the idea of assigned seating didn’t seem too uncomfortable. It felt reassuring to know that there was an actual place for me. With that in mind, I approached someone in the dining room who appeared to be in charge. She knew who I was before I said anything. With a big smile, she said, “Come with me. Here is your table, number 33.” She introduced me to Irene, Loretta and another Pat. They smiled, “Sit down. Welcome.” They asked what turned out to be the standard question: “Where have you come from?” “Would you like to go to the salad bar?” My tablemates showed me the ropes. My goodness, it was like a restaurant: greens, fruit, cottage cheese, vegetables, bacon, bleu cheese and seven different dressings, including my favorite, honey Dijon. There were raisins, sunflower seeds and crunchies. I took too much. Back at the table, a college-age waitress handed me a menu.  “Can I get you something to drink?” “Hot water, if it’s not too much too trouble.” “We have coffee and decaf, too,” she added. It took more than that first day to realize that whatever I asked for was not too much trouble. Since I am gluten free, it was no trouble to check with the cook if there was flour in the soup. No trouble to cover ice cream with wrap so I could take it to my room. No trouble to use gluten-free bread (my own) to make a sandwich. For my first dinner meal, I ordered barbequed pork loin and sautéed vegetables. “Did I want potatoes or rice or a flaky roll?” “No thank you,” I said. I was offered more options. “Do you want coconut pie for dessert?” “How about some ice cream?” As always, whatever I wanted, it was “No trouble.” I introduced myself to the women of table 33. The best part was their varied conversation. This was so much more interesting than eating alone in my condo! Next Thursday: Opening My Arms to Life at Wesley Homes