Adeatha Mae, 95 years old, has a glimmer in her eye when she shares her childhood memories. She paints an idyllic picture of growing up amid the sweet fragrances of orange blossoms, ripening apricots and alfalfa growing tall in the rolling pastures of her family farm in California.

Mae, as her Meals on Wheels friends call her, will tell you that her childhood was happy-go-lucky and fun-filled. And yet, when you get to know Mae, you come to realize that her good-natured optimism is a choice she made long ago, even while growing up during the Great Depression.

“We never really stopped to think of how bad things were or that we couldn’t have something — you just didn’t have it. We never sat around crying about not having breakfast, we’d just go outside and play. There was always something fun to do on the farm. We were never bored. We had a wonderful life.”

Like many families, they “went without,” including basic necessities such as electricity and heating. Mae’s siblings and her mother would travel to the cannery or to other farms to work and earn money.

When Mae was old enough to venture out on her own, she moved to Fresno and applied to beauty school. She put herself through school and shared a room with another student at a local boarding house. As fate would have it, a handsome young man named Paul, who worked in the kitchen at the boarding house, soon became a constant companion and… love blossomed.

The couple were soon married and when the war took Paul oversees, Mae opened a beauty salon, diligently saving money for when the couple were reunited. When Paul returned, Mae had managed to save $10,000! They purchased land in San Diego and, this “can do” couple, built their home with their own two hands. Their beautiful daughter, Paulette, came along soon after. Fast forward many years later and you will find Mae living with Paulette after Paul, who retired as Captain of the San Diego Fire Department passed away.

Paulette began Meals on Wheels shortly after becoming Mae’s caretaker. “It is overwhelming taking care of another person. If it wasn’t for Meals-on-Wheels, I don’t know where we would be. They mean everything to us. Aging can be so limiting in social contact. You become more and more isolated. The volunteers talk to my mom and have such a nice time. I look forward to seeing them too! It’s wonderful and a huge sense of comfort.”

“You know,“ Mae chimes in, “they bring wonderful food for us, and food and treats for our pets as well! Ollie (the family dog), has a bear he received from Meals on Wheels. He drags that little toy everywhere and waits by the door for the volunteers, too.”

Recently Paulette fell and is temporarily confined to bed rest. “Meals on Wheels is keeping us both alive! I don’t know what we would do without them, literally! We both are so grateful.”


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