“George, the Night Phantom”
There are two words that are forbidden to be said in my home. “Think and thought.” Strange, you say, not at all. You have not met my Harold, my sweet, loving, heart of gold husband, who to put it politely, cannot screw in a light bulb without breaking it. Get the picture?
I knew when we bought our first home, which was over seventy years old that
Harold and I were going to have many ‘discussions,’ to say the least about fixing up
let alone repairing sections of the house. And true to form, Harold did not let me
After several months and many ‘discussions,’ I was ready to sign the papers to
put Harold into a home for the physically and mentally disabled. I could not take
another ”I think” or “I thought.” I was at my wit's end.
Enter, George, Harold’s best friend since childhood. I could not believe the story
that Harold told me about him. George had a dream to take a trip to Italy and while it
took him almost two years of collecting and turning in pop bottles, he finally had
enough money to make his dream come true. George continued through the years to
collect bottles hoping for another dream trip back to Italy.
George, was on the heavy side of the scale, had the start of a receding hairline, and
a quirky sense of humor. He was the master who could fix, repair, or install
everything and anything. Definitely my kind of guy. Did I say a quirky sense of
humor, well here are some stories about George. Let me know if you agree with me,
but be careful that you do not break a blood vessel laughing.
George, like Harold, had a heart of gold, so when I called him crying, he knew at
once the reason for my call and asked what needed to be done.
Right after work, the next day, George came to install our new through the wall air
conditioner in the family room. He did a masterful and quick job but warned Harold
that because the unit would be in the direct hot sun all day long, we needed to plant a
tree for shade.
Two weeks later, George stopped by and noticed that Harold had not planted the
tree. Surprise, Surprise! Next morning, when I took the garbage out to the alley, I
could not believe my eyes. There on the side of the house in front of the air
conditioner was a tree, an actual tree. Found out later that the city had been planting
trees on several blocks in the neighborhood. and during the night George
“appropriated” one of the trees and planted it in our yard. I still cannot believe he did
it and we never heard a sound.
If you think that was funny, you have not heard anything yet. We live only a few
blocks from the edge of a major city, so one would not think of finding snakes in
their yard, but shock of shocks, we did. A massive colony of them – yuck. I hate
snakes, I will not even touch a picture of the slimy disgusting things.
Early one morning, as I was drinking my coffee and making out my to do list for
the day, in our kitchen/family room I thought I heard our next-door neighbor talking
to someone in a loud voice for several minutes but never heard the other person say
anything. Curious, I looked out the window and guess who he was talking to? A long
disgusting snake that was slowing working its way across his patio, to sun itself!
Some days the big black birds that lived in the nearby park, would swoop down
and grab the snakes in their bills and fly off with them. What a sight, a big bird with
a snake dangling and wiggling from its beck. One image that I wanted but could not
Sorry, I digress. We needed electricity in the garage and knowing that Harold
would either burn down the garage or worse, electrocute himself, I naturally called
George. Bright and early the following Saturday, I could hear George whistling and
looking out the back window saw that he was working up a sweat as he was digging
the trench from the house leading to the garage in prep to laying the electrical wires.
Around three in the afternoon, he came up the back stairs stood in the family room
and asked for a glass jar and could I put a couple of holes in the lid. Not a usual
request and naturally I asked why. He slowly showed me the hand that he had been
hiding behind his back. Oh, Lord, he was holding 2 wiggly disgusting snakes and
needed the jar, so he could take them home.
“George, you can’t take those disgusting things home, Monica will kill you,” I
said stunned. No, the boys will love them, no problem at all, he mumbled as he
headed back down the stairs for home.
Around 6 that evening, I saw George’s head bobbing up the back stairs. Did you
forget one of your tools I asked? With a sad face, he replied that he had brought back
the snakes. Why? Why? In heavens name did you bring them back here? I have tons
of them, you live a block from the forest preserve, why didn’t you leave them there?
“You can’t upset mother nature’s balance, I had to return them to their home”.
George, I love and hate you!
I found out days later from his wife Monica what happened. Monica is a
sweetheart, only 4 feet 8 inches tall but has the punch of a prize fighter. She was
washing dishes and heard George come into the kitchen but did not turn around until
he called his three sons to see the great surprise he had for them.
It was when she heard the boys squeal in delight that she turned and almost
For there stood George, grinning from ear to ear, as proud as a peacock in all his
glory with a wiggly snake wrapped around each arm.
Monica said that for a split second, everything went black but once she could
fully comprehend what she was looking at, she started to scream. “Get those #####
things out of my house. Have you lost your mind?” This is where George made his
second mistake, the one that broke the camel’s back. He turned to his sons, winked
and asked them, do we keep the snakes or your mother? The boys without a moment’s
hesitation said snakes. At this point, Monica not uttering a word, slowly went upstairs,
packed a bag and went to her mother’s. I sat listening to her tell the story, trying not to
laugh, but when the boys chose the snakes, that did it, I almost peed in my pants.
Now, I am sure that you have seen those large heavy wooden picnic tables that
are used in public areas? Well, one year, awhile back, our county forest preserve was
replacing them with new, plastic ones. Harold’s friend who worked for the county,
asked if he was interested in getting one or more tables. Harold got one for us, the
neighbor next door and one as a thank you to George for all the hard work he had
done for us over the years and refusing to take any money
Several days after the county dropped off the table at George’s house, I went to
get the mail and found a large white folded sheet of paper in the mailbox. When I
opened it, there were words cut out of the newspaper and magazines saying that we
were to collect one hundred unmarked pennies, drop off location to be determined, if
we ever wanted to see our picnic table leg again. A ransom note? Who? What?
Where? Totally confused, I went into the yard and found a lopsided picnic table,
minus one leg. George, the night phantom, had struck again!
Many times, George would come to work on something at the house straight from
work so before getting started he would sit down and join us for dinner. Our children
adored their “Uncle George” and were always enthralled with the many hilarious
stories he told about all the things he and their dad had done that had gotten them in
hot water with their parents.
One night, we were having BBQ ribs for dinner. After announcing that everyone
should wash up, dinner would be on the table in five minutes, George asked for the
newspaper. Why now, just as we were sitting down to dinner, I asked myself, but
knowing George, I just gave him the paper. The boys could not believe their eyes.
Once George finished one rib, he simply threw the bone done on top of the paper
that he had skillfully placed next to his chair, and then started on another rib. This
was just George being George.
These are just a few of the many wonderful memories I have of George. Kind,
loving George, a better friend Harold or I could ever hope to have again.
Years have passed and sadly, George developed cancer and even in his pain, he
never lost his wonderful sense of humor or his unforgettable laugh. He continued to
drop by to talk to Harold about the “good old days” until he could not walk any
A couple of days after George’s funeral, I was cleaning out the garage and
I noticed a metal box sitting in a far corner. Inside was a note, with just 6 words “I am
on another dream trip” and a dozen empty pop bottles!
Ciao, George, ti amiamo. Thanks, for the memories and for the start to our “dream