George is one of those “forever friends” I have known all of my life. His parents were friends with my parents. We went to the same church. We both played violin in the orchestra and percussion in the marching band. Once we started ninth grade, we were in many of the same classes. I was Student Council Secretary when he was President.
George is a year and a half older so he was one of the first of my friends to have a license. In our small town, that meant freedom! We could go to Arby’s for lunch on our own, or go shopping at K-Mart whenever we wanted, or take off for the movies without needing an adult.
George’s dad had a disability so my own need for assistance was nothing new. George would have my wheelchair folded and securely in the trunk of the car long before I had managed to swing both of my legs into the seat. Most times, I got ‘shotgun’ because getting into the back was more difficult. Thus, I also had control of the radio. Andy, Stephanie and Mark would be in the backseat as we cruised down the highway in the Buick LaSabre debating movies and music. The boys picked on me when I cried during “Dead Poet’s Society” but then randomly shouted, “O Captain my Captain!” during the thirty minute ride home.
I was the State Coordinator of the Ms. Wheelchair New York program from 2002 – 2012. In 2005, we hosted the national Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant here in Albany. My friend Stephanie compared hosting to “planning a week of weddings, one each day.” George volunteered a week of his vacation to come from Georgia, where he now lives, and assisted with the pageant. He willingly took on any task serving as airport chauffeur (even at 1:30 AM), late night food delivery service, interior decorator, and hospitality room greeter. He always had a smile and kept everyone’s spirits up when we were all ready to collapse from exhaustion.
George is quick with a phone call or text whenever he learns I have not had a good day or things are not great in my world. His support and encouragement help lift my mood and remind me how blessed I am to have such positive energy directed my way. We have many mutual Facebook connections and I witness him doing the same for others as well.
On one of our high school summer marching band trips, we performed at an amusement park. We were excited to spend the day on roller coasters, eating junk food. Everywhere we went througout the park, we kept seeing the same two couples. They made an impression on us because one of the women was named Edna and the others kept yelling to her in loud nasal voices. It wasn’t long before we were also yelling, “EDNA!” The name stuck and even now whenever George calls “Edna!”I laugh and answer with an “Edna!” yell of my own. As I type this, I just received a text from Stephanie telling me she is on hold with a woman named Edna and thinking of George.
Thank you George (AKA “Edna #1”) for always making so many of us laugh when we need to take a break from being serious. The world is a brighter place because of your continued friendship to many, your generosity and your smile.