It was a cold, blustery Monday at the RiverWalk at Head of Falls in Waterville, though occasionally the sun would emerge from the clouds as if to tease a reticent visitor to stay.

A woman wearing a black knitted cap and blue sweatshirt strolled past the gazebo and down to the Kennebec River, dropping her shoulder bag on a picnic table.

She leaned against the railing and peered down at the river, where ducks and seagulls swooped and flew away.

I wondered who she was, this woman who was the sole occupant of the park on a late April afternoon.

“I live right down the street and I come here, usually, on my days off,” she said after I introduced myself and sat at the table.

“I work at Colby College, in the kitchen,” Meghan Linehan said. “I cook and serve, usually. I chop up the fruit and everything. I’ve worked at Colby for nearly a year and a couple of months at Dana Hall. It’s nice. The kids are nice. They come from all over the place. I have some regulars that like to come in and chat with me.”

Linehan, 26, turned out to be a friendly and engaging park mate for the better part of an hour. A 2013 graduate of Messalonskee High School, she grew up in Oakland, one of four sisters, and has worked in foodservice and housekeeping on and off throughout her life, she said.

Because she lives right on Front Street nearby, she witnessed construction of the RiverWalk and is pleased with the outcome.

Meghan Linehan, 26, spent time on the Riverwalk talking with Amy Calder about books, growing up in Oakland, working at Colby and, for the first time in her life, having to pay for medications that help control her epilepsy and bipolar disorder. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

“Hopefully, they keep it up and don’t let it fall apart,” she said. “I like the nice view over the river. Even the mill over there — it’s still nice. I think it’s really an accent of Maine. It’s good to see.”

We talked about politics and current events and Linehan’s ideas for writing a novel or a collection of short stories. She is an avid reader.

“I like horror and Gothic horror,” she said.

During her days off — she works 40 hours a week at Colby — she has been binge-watching “Dark Shadows,” a Gothic soap opera on ABC television from the 1960s and ’70s about a vampire named Barnabas Collins and set in fictional Collinsport, Maine.

“I like it a lot. It’s a fun show. It’s kind of goofy — it doesn’t take itself too seriously.”

She and her sister traveled to Salem, Massachusetts, home to the famous House of the Seven Gables, which a distant relative helped to build, she said.

“We both got black cat tattoos because we love ‘Hocus Pocus,’ the Disney movie. Our tour guide on the Witch Walk was going on about how she didn’t like ‘Hocus Pocus,’ so we had our tattoos covered.”

Our conversation moved to health care and the high cost of prescription drugs.

Linehan has epilepsy and the anti-convulsive medication she takes costs her $200 for a 90-day supply. She recently went off her parents’ health insurance because she turned 26, so she must pay for her own meds. She also was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder, and takes medication for that.

“This is my first time paying for all this. My Mom’s biggest worry was my being off her insurance. Now, it’s about, do I want to go on MaineCare? I was thinking about getting disability benefits, but it would mess up my credit and if I get married, I’d lose my benefits.”

Linehan knows how to search for coupons that help lower the cost of her medications, but she worries about others who are unaware they exist.

“I can’t imagine how it is for someone who doesn’t have those resources available to them,” she said.

She told me about a book she read by Kurt Eichenwald, an author and journalist who has epilepsy and writes about the challenges associated with it.

“His book was really inspiring to me,” she said.

I enjoyed my time with Linehan, a striking, dark-haired, bluish-green-eyed woman who is both articulate and perceptive — and whose whole life lies ahead of her. She should be able to experience that life without having to worry about paying for costly, life-saving medications and I tell her so.

Being the richest country in the world, we can do better for Linehan and others who need such medicine. She acknowledges she didn’t choose epilepsy.

“It’s not really something that can stop in my body,” she said. “It’s something in my brain that fires off if I don’t have my meds.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 33 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.