Bravo, George. My dear friend remembered with a laugh, a cry and a door malfunction - Susan Morrison
Last Friday in May. Remember that rotten weather? Blowing a hoolie, rain coming in sideways and seagulls flying backwards in the gale? Miserable day for visiting my friend George.
George was an amazing man. He’d been born with a rare disabling medical condition but he didn’t let that stop him getting a degree and a career. He married a lovely woman called Claire. He lost Claire back in 2015, but he still rolled on in that huge wheelchair of his, being funny and generous and obstreperous to people who tried to patronise him.
The last few years had been tough for George. He had to go on dialysis. The way he explained it, he was born with only one kidney, a fact that the NHS omitted to mention until it started to pack in.
He was getting frailer and he missed Claire
He asked me to pick up some eggs on the way round, and we had a very jolly visit. There was always a lot of laughter around George. He felt well enough to eat something, and brave enough to ask me to scramble some of those eggs. It’s usually best if I stay out of the kitchen, but I rose to the challenge. Whilst I thought he wasn’t looking, I quickly googled a recipe.
Actually, he was looking. He was delighted. He spent a happy ten minutes mercilessly taking the mickey out of me for sneaky-peaking instructions for scrambled eggs.
We nattered, talked politics and then I could see he was getting tired, so I started for home. George had one of those automatic front doors. You hit a button, it opened and then it took ages to close.
I always worried that gangs of ne’er-do-wells were lurking just outside, waiting to take advantage of that slow closing door to ransack the joint and lift the valuables. George often pointed out that the only thing of value was his wheelchair and its worth as a getaway car was limited, since it’s top speed was about 5 miles an hour.
The door began to close slowly behind me, I lost my temper with it and tried to pull in shut. It got stroppy and stopped working altogether. I got even more exasperated. George was roaring with laughter at the sight of a fully grown woman losing the plot at a door. I went full-on fake teen temper tantrum and shouted ‘Whatever!”.
George shouted ‘Whatever!’ at me, and the door majestically swung shut in its own sweet time.
Behind me, I heard George laughing.
It was the last time I ever heard him. They found him in his wheelchair the next day. It must have been sudden and peaceful.
They asked me to speak at his funeral last week. I told them about our last conversation and the Battle of The Door and the ‘whatever’ exchange and that last lovely sound of George laughing.
The celebrant conducted a beautiful ceremony. We said goodbye to our friend. We rose to leave the crematorium. We couldn’t. The door had jammed.
The staff leaped forward, but before they could get there, the door suddenly released and slid, majestically, open.
Someone said with faux teenage exasperation ‘Whatever!’
We left crying and laughing. Bravo, George.