The banquet room was set more formally than in past years, with tablecloths and napkins. The staff at Polly’s Restaurant was always gracious to us, maybe sensing our stressful concerns. What should we choose for next year’s insurance? I liked the new arrangement, tables set in a square so everyone would be able to see everyone else. Perhaps this more genteel ambiance would calm our nerves. We always had a thousand questions at the meetings, and hearing other folks’ concerns generated conversations worth listening to.
Each year I had to determine which part D option for my mom’s Medicare plan was the best choice before committing in December for the supplementary insurance I’d sign for her. The yearly formulary was a thick enough tome to boost the youngest child to the Thanksgiving table. None of us had time nor skill to read or figure it out. Think new annual tax codes. The presenters explained the new plans’ pros and cons in understandable bites and comparative columns. I’d make a decision based on determining which health care plan would provide the lowest cost for mom’s medications, wheel chair rental, and ambulance service.
If we could not be persuaded to attend these meetings by dint of their importance to our (mom’s) health care for the next year, Polly’s sent each of us home with a fresh pie of our choice. How can you not show up for pie? Some of us came for information, some came for pie.
I was early but three gentlemen were already seated. It didn’t surprise me that they were fifteen or twenty years older than me. I was often the youngest at these meetings since I came on my mother’s behalf, not my own. By paunch and jowl and sartorial casualness, they were certainly the right demographic for the meeting.
They, however, sat gape mouthed at my entrance, too stunned even to speak. I smiled and said hello. They asked what I was doing there, my youth obviously confounding them.
“I’m here for the meeting,” I said, smug in my certainty of purpose. Only in my early sixties, I didn’t yet qualify for Medicare. They were envious of my tender years, astonished by my presence among their venerable company. I’m way too old (and married) to flirt, but their expressions demanded response. I smiled and tossed my curls. A little feminine confirmation of their masculinity couldn’t hurt.
“But we’re the Romeos,” one said.
Adorable. How can you not fall in love with a grandpa who knows Shakespeare?
“Well then I’m Juliet,” I said and rearranged the place setting so I’d have room for my notebook.
“No, we’re the Romeos,” he said, as if an explanation of their right to vote.
I looked at the three men. What could they be so worried about? I wasn’t the only person to attend these meetings on behalf of someone too frail to attend for themselves.
“Romeos,” he repeated, emphasis on the last word. “Retired Old Men Eating Out.”
The tablecloths and silverware. The square table arrangement. The recognition of circumstances. This Juliet was standing on the wrong balcony, seeking the wrong man.
How many names can we ascribe to red? Magenta, burgundy, cerise, cherry, scarlet, crimson. I didn’t have to see my face to know it blushed every shade in and out of the rainbow.
I’d come on the wrong day. My meeting was the next week.
Thank you, Romeos, for a charming ten minute date. Like many affairs it didn’t last long but I’ll always remember you. Seems I’d been looking for love in all the wrong places.
Painting: Romeo and Juliet Farewell by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale, courtesy Wikimedia Commons