This column by the Aroostook County Action Program is meant to give a voice to people in Aroostook County who “Champion Change” — mostly in their own lives, but also in their community. Our hope is that by sharing real stories of people we’ve come to know through our “community action” work, that readers will experience some amount of change within themselves.
In the last column, George faced some scrutiny from society about his living choices and came to terms with what stabilizing his living situation meant regarding the basic freedoms he was accustomed to enjoying.
What the future holds for George is still uncertain. Doctors are telling him he will need another surgery, but he’s uncertain the benefit will outweigh the costs when he feels like he’s already given up so much in the name of survival.
“I’m going to put surgery off as long as possible,” he said. “Until the doctor says you won’t be able to move until we get in there and fix it, I’m going to put it off. I just hope that I can keep going.”
What he’d like to do is return to the life he knows, but he understands the reality of his situation.
“It kind of scares me that I’m stuck where I am now until my contract expires. I wanted to save my money and see if I could actually get another farm someday — a little cabin so I can do flowers and gardening. I don’t know if I’ll ever get there on my fixed income. I have no opportunity. You work and you have opportunity. I only get the joys of what my fixed income allows me to get. Even to have a girlfriend, how does that fit? If you want to take a lady out, then it costs a bit of money. More or less, though, it would be nice to have a friend.”
The fixed income, however, and the help he’s received to stabilize his basic needs, has given him some things that he might not have had otherwise — like a new bed so he no longer needs to sleep on the floor. Still, George maintains a watchful eye over his newfound comforts so that he can live within his limited means and pursue a new quality of life.
“Some of the things make it easy, like turning the water on and taking a bath, but I have to worry about how long of a shower so the bill won’t go too high.”
While George still faces long days confined within his four walls, he does express gratitude and some positive changes have occurred in recent months. For one, George’s doctor validated his need for a dog, and with help from legal services, he recently received approval for one. Now the trick is finding the right dog.
“They have rules and I don’t want an ‘almost’ dog, I want a dog,” he said.
The rules relate to the size of dog, primarily. George is used to mid- to large-sized dogs, and the limit on size is about 30 pounds. While he researches breeds to find his perfect companion within those parameters, George is looking ahead to future goals.
“I’m doing everything I can possibly do for myself to get out of here,” he said, referring to his apartment. “Don’t get me wrong, this is great. If I were an apartment guy, I’d be in heaven. For somebody else in my situation, it would make them as happy as can be. I’m thankful, but I can’t do what I want to do.”
And what he ultimately wants to do is simply return to a semblance of the life he always has known.
“I’m not looking for a mansion. I’m looking for a little cabin that is heated nicely with a shower and with a little piece of ground where I can put a garden in and walk around, because here I can’t do anything really,” said George.
With his ACAP family coach’s help, he’s learning about the resources available and how to help him achieve that next step. Already, his credit score is improving and he’s researching housing programs that may be able to put him into an affordable mortgage when the time is right.
His son and daughter and grandkids still live in Alaska, but northern Maine is home for George now. So, while he learns to make the best of his situation, he has hope and a plan and he feels he can go almost anywhere with that.
Aroostook County Action Program administers more than 40 programs in the community that help people meet their basic needs and that offer support, education and encouragement. For information, visit our website at acap-me.org or call our office at (207) 764-3271.