I Miss George

At our new church I met George while in my early 30’s; he was 20 years older than me. He worked managing a building supply store on an Air Force base and before that had worked in construction and when he found out I was remodeling an old house he gave me some pointers and offered to come over and help.On a cloudy Saturday George showed up with an air compressor, a hopper coupled to a spray gun and the sort of things you need to spray stuff on your walls to give it a finished plaster look. George showed me how to mix up the stuff and how to set the air compressor and demonstrated how to spray the mixture. Then just as I was getting comfortable he handed it all to me.George1

With George's help I learned a few things.
With George’s help I learned a few things.
“It’s your house,” he said shrugging with a grin and we traded places. It all turned out okay because after the room was finished you really couldn’t tell where George’s spray ended and mine took over.George had a good sense of humor and we laughed a lot. At our church Christmas party one year I made great fanfare of presenting George with some grotesque artwork as a gag and for the next several years it went back and forth between us. George always had a look of glee when he managed to give it back to me.One summer we both attended a men’s retreat and spent the evening laughing and joking and listening to some Bible teaching. Late in the evening we were in the men’s shower room getting ready for bed. I sheepishly told George that besides shaving and brushing my teeth I also had to take out my contacts and use my allergy and asthma sprays and George who had problems from a cleft palate nodded. “I have to take out my hearing aids and my mouthpiece so I can talk…it’s embarrassing.” Later on we both went to the same camp and spent the day fixing up some of the cabins. I was looking forward to working and laughing with George all day but he assigned me to work with Vernon. Being a team player I went with Vernon to a cabin where we were to replace some siding.Vernon set up a ladder and got out a tape measure. I asked him if he wanted me to measure the piece we were to replace? Vernon said, “Well, just a minute…” and climbed the ladder himself and measured himself. I thought maybe Vernon would have me run the saw, but nope, he wouldn’t let me touch it; nor the square. Nor would he let me hammer a nail. And Vernon didn’t believe in joking or laughing while he worked. Mostly I spent all day watching him and occasionally holding the end of a piece of siding while he cut it or nailed it. On the drive home I complained to George and wanted to know why he had teamed me up with Vernon.“Paul,” George said with some exasperation in his voice, “You were the only one I knew who had the patience to put up with Vernon all day.” And then we both laughed.A few times George and I went golfing. I hadn’t played much golf and what I knew I had been taught by my lovely wife. I was a bit apprehensive of going out to the golf course with George but after watching him T-off on the first hole I knew I could relax. George had a no-nonsense type of swing that I guess could be described more like a violent swipe. And we went out around the 9-hole course with my swings showcasing my great form but not sending the golf ball in the desired direction and George’s violent swipes which sent the golf ball flying along with dirt and grass and usually in the wrong direction. But we had good talks while searching the woods for our uncooperative golf balls.One day George decided I should come with him and Maynard and go fishing on a frosty October morning. I thought it was too cold to fish, and the few flakes of snow falling around us as we drove to the lake seemed to favor my side of the argument. But George said, “The lake isn’t frozen over, yet.” And Maynard silently nodded. So we went fishing.We caught several northern and tangled up our fishing lines but had the cold lake to ourselves. About noon we went ashore and invited ourselves and our fish into a friend’s cabin where George and his friend fried fish and potatoes and once we were full and warmed up we went back on the lake for more fun. I slept very well that night.Often George would talk about his Air Force employees or his daughters and their new husbands. And he told me how his one son-in-law was what George described as ‘a hot-head’. George said he took his three son-in-laws for a golf outing and some bonding time but one constantly complained, one was always mad about something and the last one kept aloof of them all. George said, “I finally had enough and I said, you know boys we are out here to have fun and get to know each other. And if you aren’t going to work at having fun, just let me know and we’ll go home now!”I asked him, “Did they let you know?”George said, “Yep. We went home.”Many times George and I would talk about our jobs or raising our families or people problems we had and George would tell me how he handled situations in the past including what worked and what didn’t. He always seemed glad to just be my friend and happy to help me if he could. And his advice not only helped it also gave me direction and confidence. We did things together at church off and on, like singing in a men’s choir and it was always a little more fun when George was there making me laugh or giving me pointers. A few short years later we moved again and not long after that George retired and relocated to Florida and we lost contact. Not long after I heard he had passed away I was sorry I hadn’t kept up with him. And sometimes as I go through life and find myself in this predicament or that I wonder what George would do? I miss George.