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A few beers and flowers bring back sweet little memories

NIAGARA, Wis. — I had to go grocery shopping today and decided to get an early start, since it was a Wednesday — senior citizen discount day, after all. I had stopped at one store to pick up just a few items I could not find at the first one I had visited, so did not have very many things in my cart. Consequently, when a new checker opened up her lane, I let a couple of other customers go ahead of me. The one older man had waited longer than I had, and the younger man had only two items. I noticed his two items because they made for a bit of an unusual combination; he was holding a bouquet of lovely flowers in one hand and a six pack of beer in the other. I said to him, “That is an interesting combination of items you have there” to which he responded with a big smile, “Yeah, if she doesn’t like the flowers, I can drink the beer.” We both laughed.

It reminded me of a time — decades ago — shortly after my husband and I were married. We were living in a tiny apartment in Neenah, Wis., back then and had not yet been married a year. He was finishing college in Green Bay, Wis., and we were working at Pizza Hut in the evenings — one of the “survival jobs” we could find back then. We had one vehicle — an older model Chevy Impala with a very automatic transmission; it shifted at random, no matter our speed. But we relied on that vehicle for both school and work.

I should also mention that, back then, my husband had a very heavy foot and had consequently accumulated a number of speeding tickets on his driving record, along with their corresponding points against his license. The last thing we needed was for him to get one more ticket, but the next policeman to stop him really did not care to hear a reason for his speeding. I should also add that, back then, my husband turned into a very different person when he was stopped. Usually very patient, polite and understanding, in that moment when face-to-face with the officer wielding another speeding ticket, all of my husband’s Catholic school etiquette dropped away. I always held my breath in those moments. This time, along with the speeding ticket, he received an order to appear in traffic court in Appleton!

All I could think of was how would he get to school and work if he lost his driver’s license. I could drive him to work, but not all the way to Green Bay to school. And what would his parents say if he lost his license? Obviously, my response was not helping the situation … or his mood. Once home, we talked it through more calmly and he prepared himself to face the judge in traffic court. We were so nervous. Neither of us had ever even seen the inside of a courtroom before, and we were terrified. As my husband started in with his prepared statement about how much he needed his driver’s license, the judge stopped him and said, “Wait a minute. No one said anything about getting your license revoked; I do not plan to do that tonight.” He proceeded to give my husband a serious talking to and allowed him to leave with a stern warning that if there was a next time, consequences would be different.

Oh, my goodness, we were so relieved! You would have thought we had just won the lottery. We decided to celebrate and stopped into one of the favorite teen bars on College Avenue, The Shack. We sat down at a table, emptied our pockets of all of our loose change and divided the pot by 35 cents to see how many beers we could get to celebrate our good fortune. I think we had enough for two beers each, and they had never tasted so good.

Needless to say, over the years my husband’s driving has slowed down — a bit. He has benefitted from two things. First, cruise control was invented and eventually became standard on all cars. He uses it faithfully. Of course, we do not always agree on the speed at which he sets it — especially on the open highway. Second, we live in a small community, and he is on a first-name basis with our local chief of police. If he ever gets stopped, she reminds him to slow down, and now he always apologizes. His Catholic school manners have returned in those moments as his years have accumulated.

The flowers brought back another memory. My husband is very practical — we both are, really. Through the years, it has been a trait that has served us both very well. I remembered a time when I had been working at the hospital for about four years and happened to be in a position that was not a good fit. It was high stress, and I never really felt that my educational background matched the demands of the job. I had missed lunch, and by the time I remembered, the cafeteria was no longer serving. The hunger pangs in my stomach had begun to match the stress headache I’d had all morning. I knew that my husband had not yet left town for his job that took him all over the U.P. and away from home all week, so I called home and caught him just in time. He told me he would bring me a lunch on his way out of town, and I told him a simple sandwich would be just fine. About a half-hour later, he arrived at my office with a big smile on his face. From the paper bag he had in his hand, he produced a little basket lined with a cloth napkin. He had made me a sandwich and added some potato chips, a piece of fruit and a cookie. The entire little picnic basket was topped by a sprig of flowers! That lunch tasted every bit as good as a chef-prepared, five-course meal, because it was prepared from the heart.

Throughout our 49-year marriage, there have been many memorable moments. Certainly, the significant milestones stand out in my memory — the birth of our two sons, their Cub Scout years, confirmations and graduations, jobs lost and new jobs found. Each stage of life had its highs and lows, challenges and celebrations. As we remember together, we remind each other that we have enjoyed each phase, each step of the journey. And we hope for many more to come.

Yet, I think some of the sweetest memories are the ones that sneak up on me like the two I shared with you today … when the sight of a six pack of beer and a bouquet of flowers can bring back such touching memories of days gone by and a renewed appreciation for the one with whom I have spent them.

——

NURSING HOMES

The usual senior living activity calendars and senior center menus are not being published to avoid confusion. Due to the coronavirus and the vulnerability of the elderly population, daily life in the senior living facilities and senior centers has changed dramatically.

All living facilities have closed their doors to public visitation, and the activity calendars have been modified to allow for one-to-one room visits only and individualized activities to keep residents engaged and active as much as possible while remaining within the health and safety guidelines provided by state health experts.

Group games are being substituted with individualized activities residents can do in their respective rooms. Staff are providing supplies as well as “overhead announcement bingo and trivia” games and “hallway games” that can be played in individual rooms or by sitting within individual room doorways.

YouTube and DVDs are being utilized to provide religious services. A big dose of gratitude and appreciation goes out to all senior care staff for their creativity, caring and perseverance through a difficult situation.

All senior centers also have been closed to any center-based activity. Until they re-open, no information is being published that talks about activities typically available at these centers. While some have reopened with limited seating, meals do continue to be delivered.

Some centers also are preparing meals to be picked up. Menus are printed below for those centers who are either preparing takeout or providing home-delivered meals. Questions can be directed to the individual centers at the numbers listed below.

SENIOR CENTERS

Alpha-Mastodon Center

906-875-3315

Amasa Center

906-822-7284

The Amasa Center is a curbside pick-up-only kitchen for now. Call ahead for Tuesdays through Thursdays. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Beef stroganoff, noodles and California blend vegetables.

Wednesday: Sloppy Joe on a bun, baked beans, tomato and cucumber salad.

Thursday: Pasties, mixed vegetables and coleslaw.

Breen Center

906-774-5110

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Baked chicken, rice medley and broccoli.

Tuesday: Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes and corn.

Wednesday: Ribs and sauerkraut and potatoes.

Thursday: Chicken Alfredo and noodles.

Crystal Falls Center

Head cook: Lucy Korhonen

906-875-6709

Crystal Lake Center

Iron Mountain

906-239-0278

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Swedish meatballs, noodles and broccoli.

Tuesday: Au gratin potatoes with ham, cauliflower and dinner roll.

Wednesday: Barbecue chicken, pasta, green beans and spiced peaches.

Thursday: Cheeseburger, macaroni, corn and applesauce.

Friday: Hot dog with bun, tater tots and carrots.

For more information, call Christine McMahon at 906-774-2256.

Felch Center

906-246-3559

Now open with limited seating from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Menu for the week —

Monday: Pasty, coleslaw and green beans.

Tuesday: Pizza, salad and pineapple.

Wednesday: Meatloaf, potatoes, salad and peas.

Aging and Disability Resource Center of Florence County, Wis.

715-528-4890

Director: Tiffany White

Home-delivered meals only. Menu for the week —

Monday: Polish sausage, parsley potatoes, steamed cabbage, carrots and fruit.

Tuesday: Turkey broccoli divan, rice pilaf, stewed tomatoes and fruit.

Wednesday: Swedish meatballs over noodles, vegetable medley, fruit and apple crumb cake.

Thursday: Baked pumpkin oatmeal, sausage patty, warm fruit compote and orange juice.

Friday: Chicken patty on a bun, lettuce and tomato, baked beans and fruit.

Fence Center/Town Hall

715-336-2980

For meal reservations, call 855-528-2372

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Florence Community Center/Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-528-4261

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Tipler Town Hall

For meal reservations, call 715-674-2320

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hillcrest Senior Dining Center, Aurora

For meal reservations, call 715-589-4491

Same as ADRC menu, home-delivered only.

Hermansville Center

Coordinator: Pam Haluska

906-498-7735

Iron River Center

906-265-6134

Now open with limited seating 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. Home-delivered and/or takeout only on Thursdays. Menu for week —

Monday: Cabbage roll, wax beans and garlic bread.

Tuesday: Philly steak casserole, carrots and dinner roll.

Wednesday: Lunch meat sandwich and pasta salad.

Thursday: Swedish meatballs, noodles, carrots, dinner roll, fruit and milk.

Niagara Northwoods Senior Cafe and Center

Meal site manager: Corrie Maule, 715-251-1603

Senior center director: Jill Anderson, 715-251- 4154

Norway Center

Director: Susie Slining

906-563-8716

The center will remain closed; however, takeout meals will be prepared for pick up – those picking up must call ahead and wear a mask. Menu for the week —

Monday: Polish sausage and sauerkraut, peas, macaroni and cheese, fruit, juice, milk and dessert.

Tuesday: Stuffed cabbage rolls, green beans, fruit, juice, milk and dessert.

Wednesday: Liver or burger and onions, mashed potatoes and gravy, glazed carrots, fruit, juice, milk and dessert.

Thursday: Sweet and sour chicken over rice, stir fry vegetables, fruit, juice, milk and dessert.

Sagola Center

906-542-3273

Now open with limited seating from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday. Menu for the week —

Tuesday: Breaded chicken fillets, rice, mixed vegetables and pineapple.

Wednesday: Macaroni and cheese, taco bake, peas and applesauce.

Thursday: Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, white gravy, corn and tropical fruit.

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