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When there isn't a pandemic happening, Citymeals staff often have the opportunity to visit with meal recipients – hearing about their lives and taking pictures for stories like these. For everyone's safety, visits have become phone calls. Here's how Mary is faring during Covid-19:
One of Mary's earliest memories is her mother cautioning not to leave the house during an influenza outbreak. Looking back, Mary knows her mother would be terrified of the Coronavirus.
"Don't go outside. Safety first," she admonishes. Mary feels concerned for her fellow New Yorkers, but shrugs when asked about herself. She jokes that she never expected to live this long.
The bright spot in her day is a knock on the door from her meal deliverer Warren, who's been bringing her meals for several years. Although Mary misses his usual warm hugs, she still enjoys their conversation. Just Warren's smile – from behind his mask, of course – is a comfort in this stressful time. And, she adds, "I really appreciate the meals at this time."
Unsteady on her feet, 90-year-old Mary spends most days reading a borrowed newspaper from her neighbors, making sure she returns it to them each evening. Or she’ll watch public television from the comfort of her bed. Severe arthritis has migrated from her hips and down both legs. She tries to stretch each morning, but during the winter cold it’s often challenging merely to get up.
Her engaging smile accentuated by red lipstick and sparkling earrings, Mary exudes an air of elegance inherited from her Irish mother. Recent immigrants who met on a blind date, her parents married and settled in Tuxedo Park, New York. There they were employed by an affluent family who had survived the sinking of the Titanic. Mary’s mother had two stillborn babies before having Mary, a healthy newborn. As an only child, Mary spent most of her childhood surrounded by adults.
Sheltered from the hardships of the Depression, Mary enjoyed a privileged childhood growing up in the picturesque guesthouse on their estate. Every summer she and her parents joined the family on vacation off the coast of Maine where her father was their private chauffeur.
she looks forward to seeing Warren, her Citymeals deliverer.
Interested in pursuing a professional career, Mary commuted to secretarial school in Manhattan. Nevertheless, her small and close-knit family always remained a top priority, and when her mother suffered a fatal heart attack, she dropped everything to stay at home and look after her father. Though always close to her father, the two grew especially close after her mother passed. Her fondest memories are bonding with him over baseball and attending Yankees games during the summer. Mary never watched another sports game after her father died at the age of 75.
Suddenly alone with no family left, Mary moved to an apartment in Stuyvesant Town on Manhattan’s East Side. Though very social throughout her life, Mary never married. “I just got lucky, I guess,” she chuckles. She took a secretarial job at International Nickle on Wall Street. When she wasn’t working you could find her dancing at the city’s best ballrooms and dancehalls. It was her favorite pastime.
And if she wasn’t dancing, she was planning her next European vacation with girlfriends, visiting 16 countries over the years. She’ll never forget her last adventure nearly 20 years ago to Stockholm, where she took a boat ride around the North Sea. To this day, Mary holds onto that memory as a painting of an old frigate ship on heavy seas hangs above her television.
I didn’t think I’d live this long.
Now a medical alert device around her neck speaks to her declining health. A wheeling walker is always right by her side, a reminder that the days of travel and dancing are behind her. Unable to navigate the New York City buses and subways, Mary seldom leaves her immediate neighborhood – especially during the winter months. Five years ago, she had risky surgery for uterine cancer, followed by six weeks of rehabilitation.
That’s when Mary’s doctor recommended Citymeals. Ever since, she looks forward to seeing Warren, her Citymeals deliverer. “He comes in all kinds of weather. He’s a wonderful young man. And the meals are delicious!” She especially loves the spinach lasagna – it brings back memories of her Italian father whom she misses dearly.
With no savings, Mary constantly worries about her future when she never had to before. “I didn’t think I’d live this long,” she confesses. Given the difficult circumstances, Mary still remains strong-willed and positive about her prognosis. For now, the meals enable her to stay in the place she’s called home for 53 years. “I love it here.”