No Dress Rehearsal

Here is an account of how George met up with Nala and me today in the forest, alone and away from everyone.

In truth I was scheduled to meet up with his ex-wife, but she’d texted me at the last minute to say she was too sad – too scattered – and could we do it another time. It was a bit of a relief because I wasn’t in the mood either…

George hadn’t been around for a while but had popped into my mind one afternoon when a swift wind – his calling card, turns out – hit me in the face at exactly the same time I was passing by the house he’d helped build.

It was the house where we’d met while I was walking my dog Diesel, the boxer that hated men. Diesel took an instant liking to him, and so did I. He was a tall, tough, James Dean-ish looking guy with muscles like iron, a few missing teeth, and eyes that held stories. It was clear he’d seen stuff, but clearer still, to Diesel and me, was that this guy had a giant heart.

We became fast friends and I made a habit of visiting George at his work site during my morning walks with Diesel so the two of them could wrestle and George and I could chat. On weekends Diesel would lead me to the site and just sit there, hoping George would appear, and sometimes he did. But once the house was built and sold, George wasn’t as easy to track down.

He’d call every once in a while, letting me know he was outside my home and could we hang out, maybe take Diesel for a walk. Other times I’d call him, letting him know I was outside his SRO, and could we take Diesel to the park. We continued on like that for a couple of years or so.

George was there for me when Diesel passed away and I was inconsolable, offering hugs and sitting beside me while I sobbed and sobbed.

He was also there for me when we got Nala, the spunky little rocket puppy that had me figured out from the get-go. George had a way of reining Nala in. He taught her how to dog, and tried to teach me how to human. Despite that, Nala knew he was the one to listen to, and I was the one to challenge.

We were a pretty good, haphazard team, but then that six-month stretch of radio silence set in. I remember I’d texted him once, but he never answered. Turned out his new girlfriend had flushed his phone down the toilet.

The day that wind hit me I’d clearly heard his name in my head and had made a mental note to call him the moment I got home. And then I forgot.

Three weeks ago, drugs took him out.

When addicts make the decision to dabble again they don’t start from scratch, they pick up from where they’d left off. This is what happened to George, who very quickly spiralled. He’d relapsed after being clean for 20 years, and I had no idea.

George had a real rough go in life, but despite being neglected by family, living on the street as a teen, and being at the mercy of drugs for years, he managed to overcome addiction and create a beautiful life for himself, a daughter he treasured, and her mom, Jen. He was one of the best dads ever – always there for his Bella.

Today when I was in the forest with Nala and a flurry of oak tree catkins rained down out of the blue, I thought maybe the wind had kicked up around the treetops, but the tassels were falling in a tornado-type cylinder around the two of us only; no weather, no squirrels scrambling across branches, nothing. The day was calm, it was just Nala and me, and then out of nowhere appeared our beloved buddy George.

Nice one man.

I love you, George. And I’d give anything to have known you were on your own and needed someone. I would have been there in a second.

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