By Sheila Backman, ICCS Volunteer Writer
Sometimes there is a stereotype about the people who populate ICCS programs. One of the realities we see every day, though, is that stereotypes are rarely realities. Each of the clients in our programs is a unique individual, with their own story, and their own path that has led them to where they are today. Many are young, some have had hiccups along the road, and increasingly, many of the folk we see in our programs are seniors who have lived productive lives, but now at the end have been unable to pay their rents and have ended up needing support. The following is one of those stories.
Trevor is a man who stays current with world events. Within minutes of meeting we were into a lively discussion on the drug crisis, the war in Ukraine, and American politics.
He currently owns two guitars and his passion for music quickly became apparent. He is an accomplished composer with numerous fragments for potential songs percolating in his brain at any given time. His mom noted his musical talents and urged him to join the school band. The only opening was for a bass drummer but a guitar soon proved more attractive. In his 20’s he and his friends would rent a hall, sell tickets, and perform. He played with, and formed several groups but the Speedway Blue’s Band remains a favourite. He marvelled at how brave and spontaneous they were with these performances He and his brother-in-law were a great musical team who loved teasing his sister with their music antics.
Trevor began life in Parksville. He was among the first wave of baby boomers born to a WWII Veteran and his British War Bride. Two sisters followed his 1947 arrival. Sometime in his preschool days the young family shifted to Vancouver where he grew up surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins who all lived within a half mile radius.
When Trevor was 13 crisis came to this childhood home. A teary-eyed distraught mom told him his dad had Muscular Dystrophy and would be paralyzed within 6 years. Trevor felt overwhelmed. Would he need to step up and be the man of the house? The pressure was too much. He got into fights at school and soon quit. In his 30s, during a bought of depression, he came to understand just how important that moment had been. The trauma and fear surrounding his dad’s illness pivoted his life in a whole different direction.
By 15 he had morphed from a kid in school, enjoying band practise, to a young man in a lumber camp performing hard labour. It was a rough initiation to work life. Many of the workers were former prisoners. Later he worked with a large BC construction company. building the highway to Horseshoe Bay and laying gas pipeline around Burns Lake. Stints spent working on fishing boats and an interesting job with a skilled carpenter gave him opportunities to learn and pick up different skills. He was always intrigued with the many different sides to each job from start to finish. He still expresses this healthy curiosity at life around him.
Trevor lives at Orca Place. His furnished studio apartment, with its own bathroom, contains a small fridge, a microwave, and a two-burner stove top. Three meals are available, but he usually chooses to cook his own breakfast and lunch. He will take the supper provided to his room to reheat and eat late in the evening. When we met he had just purchased all the ingredients for an omelette. It did sound delicious. He is a capable cook and an aware shopper. The cost of the green pepper shocked him.
Seniors who are on fixed incomes are particularly vulnerable to today’s inflation rates and current high housing costs. Hard choices must be made. These inflationary realities are reflected in the demographics at Orca Place where 40% of the current residents are seniors. Trevor expressed both relief and gratitude for the help he receives. Here rent absorbs just ⅓ of income.
As with all communal living there are rules and restrictions. Security cameras are placed in the office to watch activities in the public areas of the building. The glass walls of the office, strategically placed at the entrance to the building, mean all visitors and residents are monitored going in and out. Trevor understands the necessity for these rules.
At 75 medical issues, both physical and mental, are driving factors in his days and his life. He was diagnosed as bipolar in his forties. Doctors struggled to find the correct drug for him. They did, and it has remained effective for many years now. Serious heart issues required surgery and he experiences shortness of breath with too much exertion. He has applied to the chronic pain management clinic in Nanaimo hoping that it will offer relief from the severe pain and muscle soreness he is experiencing.
All of these issues need monitoring. His case worker drives him to and attends his appointments. Trevor likes having the extra help in the room. Who among us doesn’t appreciate an advocate?
Trevor is a man with a deep faith. As he ages, he has a growing sense of gratitude for the many times God has intervened in his life to direct his journey. His faith allows him to look calmly into the future and in his words “See what God puts out for me”.
It was my pleasure to meet this thoughtful, grateful man