Clinging to hope
Barbara Acello doesn't know where she’s going to go when her time staying in Celina runs out.
The long-time Pilot Point resident lost her home and basically all of her family's belongings because of a house fire Nov. 29.
"The fire was in one end; my bedroom was in the opposite end, and had I been in the house, they would have tried to get me out before anyone else, and we probably would have all died in the fire," Barbara said.
Barbara was staying in the Settlers Ridge Care Center at the time of the fire, but her son Jon Acello and her grandson Chris Fowler, who act as her caregivers, were home when the blaze started.
"My son went for his clothes and a dog, and my grandson went for the other dog, who was hiding, and they got out," Barbara said.
The only casualties of the fire were the family's pet dove, which they had for about 15 years, and the antique family furniture Barbara had brought with her throughout moves from the suburbs of Chicago in Illinois to Iowa to Texas.
"Of the belongings in the house, those were the ones that were the most important to me," she said. "But they're just stuff, and we're all alive, so I'm grateful."
The Acello family did not find much that they could salvage.
"Things like dishes looked OK, but when you picked them up, they shattered," Barbara said.
Barbara and her husband rented the home when they came to Pilot Point, she said, intending to purchase their own. However, because her husband was a hoarder, Barbara said they continued to live in the home for three decades, even after his death in 2012.
"I just intended to stay there for the rest of my life," Barbara said.
Barbara suffers many health problems, most of which stem from a bout of polio she had as a child.
"I walked with a limp," Barbara said. "I worked; I had a family. I did fine."
Although now nearly eradicated worldwide, polio was a common and life-threatening disease when Barbara was young.
"I had polio when a child before the vaccine was available; I had polio in '52," she said. "The vaccine was available in '55, but so it was basically too late for me."
Over the years, the damage the disease did to her motor neurons has taken its toll, growing progressively worse. It started as muscle weakness, then grew to needing a walker to move around by 2002, to no longer being able to walk by 2008. Her condition has stayed basically the same since.
Barbara's stay in the care center is temporary; she was using her Medicare benefits that allow her to stay in a nursing facility for 100 days following a hospitalization. Those benefits were near their end when she spoke with The Post-Signal on Sunday.
"I was really doing it just to give my kids a break; they don't have to take care of me for 100 days," Barbara said. "I would much rather be home."
But for now, she has no home to go to. Barbara has been searching from her bed in the care center for a home to rent with basically no luck.
Her caregivers have been living in the Homewood Suites in Denton, but that ends Friday.
The home that the family rented and lived in at 116 E. McKinney St. for so long has been sold and razed, Barbara's granddaughter Brooklyn Fowler said.
"I grew up in that house, so it's weird to see it not there," Brooklyn said.
To rebuild their lives, the Acello family needs to have a place to stay, kitchen supplies, medical supplies and furniture. That furniture includes a low-air-loss bed for Barbara.
The family has been trying to submit all of the necessary documentation to receive the reimbursement from their renter's insurance policy, but Barbara said she's had difficulty listing when each item was purchased and how much it would be worth now.
Brooklyn had an accident in Barbara's handicap-accessible van, which now needs costly repairs.
Barbara is concerned about replacing all of the items possible, especially considering that she provides for her son and grandson through her work as a writer. A former nurse who consulted with facilities caring for geriatric patients, Barbara writes books on nursing to make a living.
"They also cause me to reach out and stay current because I can't write information that's 25 years old," Barbara said. "I've got to make sure that what I'm writing is up to date."
Barbara is hesitant to reach out for help. The reason, she said, is her family received help from a GoFundMe campaign after her daughter, Laura Fowler, died in a car accident in August of 2017.
"I don't feel like I can ask again," Barbara said. "I already had my hand out once. And that was just a little over a year ago."
Brooklyn, who expressed concern for her grandmother, uncle and brother, said Barbara has always been willing to help others, including being willing to help staff members at the care center on their coursework.
"Now she needs help," Brooklyn said. "She's worked hard for everything she's had, and in the last couple of years, we've lost it all. It's been one thing after another. It's been hard. She just wants to go home. She just wants to have a home."