Summer of Love Senior Thrives Today
June 7, 2023Jim Oswald
Meals on Wheels San Francisco senior client, Monica

Monica’s building is located at the northern edge of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Her apartment is modest and gets a lot of sunshine. Everything is neat and tidy – a beautiful string of sparkly fairy-type garland is draped across her windows, and cloth tapestries with intricate designs that remind me of India, adorn some of the walls.

“Would you like some tea and cookies?’” she asks me.  She’s already laid out an assortment of sweets, creams, and teabags for me to choose from.

Monica is 74 and receives Meals on Wheels. Matter of fact, she’s been receiving home-delivered meals, wellness checks, and nutrition advice from our team for the past 14 years shortly after getting out of the hospital after treatment for stage 2 bone cancer at age 60.

“The social workers at San Francisco General knew I would need home support services, to include meals, but I wasn’t 60 yet, so they referred me to Open Hand,” Monica explains. “Once I turned 60, I decided to sign up for Meals on Wheels and haven’t left since.”

I feel very comfortable in Monica’s apartment – maybe it was the tea and cookies, the bright sunshine, and the Beatles tune playing somewhere in the background – Eight Days a Week.

During our chat, I learned that Monica was and in many ways, still is the quintessential San Francisco hippie. In 1966 at the age of 15, Monica decided to escape the brutal Chicago winters. She had made a short list of places she’d like to live – Australia, New York, London, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.  She chose the latter because of its budding music scene. Plus, she already had friends in Noe Valley that she could crash with.

I loved the Castro, especially the buildings, they were beautifully painted with gorgeous flowers,” she recounts.  “It was the year before the Summer of Love began, and the music and the scene were incredible!”  

Monica tells me she had never seen so many hills before – nor so many people doing their “own thing.”  She loved it!

“All of my favorite psychedelic rock bands were right here – Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Charlatans, and Quicksilver,” she said.

Monica eventually moved to a different place in the City – her new roommates were Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley – part of the “Big Five” responsible for designing some of the most famous psychedelic concert posters of all time including many for the Grateful Dead.

Around this time Monica started performing with a small band “jamming” at clubs, doing blues and rock – mimicking all of the influences she grew up with in the suburbs of Chicago.

In the 80s, Monica and her husband Rolland created a rock band called STAROCK which appeared on SFTV cable access on Friday nights at 8:30 pm. 

“People would turn us on before they went out to the clubs at night.”

Check out one of their songs, Changing Faces, with Monica heading up the vocals!

In between all of this, she was raising her son, Solomon, and her daughter, Venus.

I asked Monica how she knew about Meals on Wheels. She said it was in 2001, the year her mother passed away in Chicago. Monica decided to fly her dad, who was living alone, across the country to San Francisco to be closer to her.

“I signed him up for Meals on Wheels and he was with me for four years before he died.”

In 2009, Monica began experiencing her own health problems including the operation to remove a cancerous bone, which was successful but resulted in a hernia and a slew of other complications.

The following year, she underwent an extremely dangerous surgery.

“Doctors had to rebuild some of my internal organs—bladder and urinary tract. They removed nine parts. I had five of the best urologists working on me,” she explained.

Doctors told Monica this was a rare surgery and “no one survives this kind of thing.” But Monica did survive and proved everyone wrong. While she cannot lift anything heavy and has to be careful with her diet, she says she’s enjoying life in her current apartment near the park.

“I feel really good right now, I’m really fortunate to have this – being able to eat good and balanced food. Meals on Wheels helps me do this,” she says.

“Sometimes I don’t have the energy to chop the potatoes and fry them. I have to have something pre-made. “I think it’s amazing how Meals on Wheels puts together so many different things and presents it.”

Our conversation drifted into the present-day and the end of the CalFresh pandemic emergency benefits in April. I asked Monica if this impacted her.

“I was receiving an extra $90 a month for a total of $290 which helped. Now I’m back down to $200. It’s ridiculous to think that everything is just fine now when obviously it isn’t. Food has gotten more expensive. That’s why Meals on Wheels is handy – for people like me. I think it’s saving a lot of lives.”

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