by Romy Zipken
At 11 a.m. on Wednesday morning in the Scheuer House of Manhattan Beach, Bobby Gotlin is handing out two types of cream-filled chocolate and vanilla cookies. Her black knit cap, embroidered with three joined flowers, frames her face as she smiles at anyone who takes a cookie. She knows everyone in the room, which is slowly filling up with roughly 30 elderly people.
All around the senior center are little cliques eating their lunches. Men sit with men. Women sit with women. And some sit alone, quietly eating their breaded chicken and sweet mashed potatoes while surveying the room.
Gotlin doesn’t sit. She makes her rounds, handing out milk tickets. Consumed by all her tasks, she forgets her cell phone near the kitchen, along with other belongings.
“Where the heck is my purse?” she asks. “I can’t find my purse.”
Gotlin paces; the rest eat lunch.
Four women sit together in the back of the room, smiling as they talk to each other and over each other. “Those women, they always sit together,” says Barbara Kantor, who sits elsewhere and who wore a Mets hat and a long, brown trench coat.
All four women are in their eighties. Sylvia Wald, Thelma Levine, Shirley Simon and Frances Gerber talk about politics.
“Obama really redeemed himself,” Wald says of the second presidential debate.
“We are all voting for Obama,” says Gerber.
Unless someone has a doctor’s appointment, the ladies dine together on Monday through Friday. At 10:30 on weekday mornings a van picks each of them up from their apartments, takes them to lunch and brings them right back home when lunch ends at noon. The food is plentiful, the company is comforting and the brief two and a half hours give the men and women a reason to get dressed, get out of the house, says Gerber, and keep from getting “depressed.”
The Scheuer House offers various afternoon classes from line dancing to poetry, and while the ladies say they would love to attend, the van leaves too soon.
“We used to leave later,” says Wald. Still, she retains a sunny disposition. “We’ve got milk and bread and newspapers. We’ve got everything we need.”
Gotlin, who has finally found her phone, walks by the ladies’ table to make sure the women have received their milk tickets. They say that they have and then compliment her outfit, a top decorated with kittens and jewelry draping over the neckline.
Lunch is coming to a close and the women prepare to leave. Frances Gerber combs her hair.
“You know she cuts her own hair,” says Shirley Simon.
“Well, I got it done for $27 and I didn’t even like it,” says Gerber.
The women chat as they help each other up from their seats. There is some confusion as to whether their van is waiting outside. The women look across the room where a driver is waiting.
They head toward the exit and onto the bus that takes them back home, until tomorrow.