George with his beloved camera.

George has been taking photos since he was 12 years old. His mother — an amateur photographer herself — was the one who handed him his first camera. Since then, he’s always seen the world through a lens and a viewfinder. His favorite subject was nature. He was happiest when out in the woods, snapping a picture of whatever caught his attention.

But now, George says, “I can’t do it the way I used to.” At 73 years old, he rarely leaves his apartment in Queens. A few years ago, George was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia, a chronic disorder that leaves him with sudden, debilitating nerve pain. There is no cure, but George manages the worst of his symptoms with medication. He needs to take it four times a day and keeps track of each dose in a black and white marbled notebook. His medication schedule, bouts of pain and the severe swelling in his legs make it hard for him to walk unaided. “I wish I could get out,” he says, “but it’s such an ordeal to leave the apartment.”

I wish I could get out, but it's such an ordeal to leave the apartment.

Even at home, George’s mobility is limited. To make things easier, he keeps several important items clipped to the lapels of his cardigan with carabiners — his glasses, a small flashlight and a screwdriver. His shirt pocket holds a handful of pens and pencils.

At night, he often sleeps in his armchair in the living room, as he struggles to get in and out of bed. When he’s not in his chair, he’s seated on a stool in his narrow galley kitchen. A small table just across from the sink is his main base of operations. From there he opens his mail, pays his bills, browses the internet and brews his daily pot of coffee. It’s organized chaos. “My desk looks like Einstein’s, but I don’t have the brains,” he jokes.

He has a home health aide who comes twice a month to help George with household tasks he can’t do himself. He also has a neighbor who checks in on him from time to time. But George wouldn’t be able to live on his own if not for the deliveries from Citymeals. “They’re pretty good,” he says, though he likes to add a dash of hot sauce or crushed red pepper.   

George’s past adventures are preserved through his photography — mostly landscapes. Ever since his mother took him to Smokey Mountain National Park as a child, he’s felt connected to the great outdoors. In college, he and his friends would often go camping. They even traveled abroad, spending a few weeks backpacking across Europe.

But what stands out most, all these years later are, the days George spent hiking the Appalachian Trail. When he crested that first hill, he remembers asking himself why he was doing this. But, when it was time to head back to civilization, his only thought was: “Why am I going back?”

Though George’s hiking days are behind him now, he finds other ways to keep busy. While he doesn’t get many visitors, George has kept in close contact with his friends over the years. Some of them he speaks with weekly over the phone. He’s always enjoyed music, especially classical, and usually has it playing while he reads or edits photos on his computer. And when he wants to reminisce, looking at those old photos brings it all back to him.