When I was eighteen years old, more than half a lifetime ago, I was interested in mental health. My dad, who’s now retired, was a practicing psychologist, and by all accounts, a good one, as many a patient of his has told me that he’s helped them through difficult times. I was still a scrawny kid, and a freshman at the U of A, already in foodservice but still convinced I’d go on to another career, and I thought it would be a good idea to volunteer at COPE. I had no practical experience of any kind, so pretty much what they let me do was hang out in the basement of a church near the Main Gate with chronic patients who needed a little interaction a couple times a week, and so that was my job: interactor. It was at COPE that I met Shirley, and Ramon, Chris and a lot of other patients whose names now elude me, and we’d play Sorry! and Parcheesi, cards and dominoes, and practice being social.
There was an occasional meltdown over a lost game of Sorry!, or a seizure, which Ramon referred to as “tap-dancing on the floor,” but the seizures were his, so we were all okay with his describing them as such. He had a haircut that was steeped in Seventies splendor even though it was the mid-eighties, and he was a dominoes master. There was awkward joke-telling that occasionally blew the punch line (“what’s red and green and goes around in a blender? A frog.”) There was a trip every few months, in the volunteers’ cars, as this was before liability was apparently the issue that it is today, to Sir George’s Royal Buffet, a dark buffet restaurant with a dented suit of armor in the entryway and a softserve ice cream machine that was disproportionately popular with our group, and Shirley would kick me under the table, apologizing profusely because her meds made her leg kick without her brain authorizing it.
I couldn’t tell you whether any of them remembers me or cares in particular that I dedicated myself for a year or so to being gently kicked or trounced at dominoes, though I do still see Chris walking the shuffle of the heavily medicated near his apartment building to this day. They were special, lovely people, even the tantrum-throwers, and while I didn’t learn as much as I suspected I would about mental health, I did learn a lot about the pitfalls pre-judging people, categorizing and pigeonholing and regarding people as their symptoms before learning what was really at the core of them. I think COPE was very special and a tremendous help for them, and I know for certain it was very special and a tremendous help for me. So I’m think of Chris and Ramon and Shirley, and of a dozen other people when we go on our next donation run to COPE. Next week, we’ll be delivering donated meals to both the staff and the residents at six COPE residences, ranging in population from 13 to 62, and to their 5th Street clinic as well. We’ll be feeding just over 200 people, and as you’re well aware by now, we’re doing it in part to give something to the community, and in part to keep ourselves afloat. Yes, our doors are open now, at least for dinner service, and we’re working our way to building a staff that can handle lunch service as well without everyone going into shocking amounts of overtime, but the donation runs we make help to keep our staff employed and deserving members of the Tucson community well-fed and recognized during a rough patch, that while admittedly less and less rough, is still no picnic. So if you want to contribute, we’d be grateful, as would the staff and residents of the six COPE residential facilities and the one clinic we’re going to next week. The details of it all can be found here:
There is, of course, the simple joy of dinner, which you can still carry out, or you can now eat in our dining room, though delivery is sadly no longer an option; we need all hands on deck here at the restaurant. We’re keeping the tables a comfortable 6-foot distance from one another (actually, the chairs, not the tables, so you needn’t feel crowded, and we’re asking people to wear a mask when mobile, but little by little I think people are inching their way toward comfort, and we’ll keep our ears peeled for an okay from the Pima County Health Department as to when they regard it as safe to further loosen restrictions. So grab a bite here, or take one on the run. the menu is thus:
And, after fourteen months of barely dealing with the public only to be suddenly immersed for the past week, I know I’ll be grateful for tomorrow’s wine tasting, where I plan to celebrate those who’ve been kind to us and push out of my head those who’ve been abusive and harsh. I would guess I’ll actually drink some tomorrow rather than spit every drop as I customarily do, but I’ve been known to have a walk that doesn’t match the accompanying talk, so we’ll see. But the wines will be fun, as will the company, and we’d love to have you join us. Here’s that bit of business:
I wish you a happy weekend full of Parcheesi and softserve ice cream, and the occasional dented suit of armor, and look forward to having you practice being social here, with us, who are practicing too.