Sometimes, you meet people in your life that stand out and you never forget them, even after decades of losing contact.
I went through most of my elementary grades and all of high school with a Greek guy who was one of the most unusual fellows I had ever met at the time, or ever, and did he ever stand out.
I first met George (which is his real first name, but I won’t give his last name for privacy reasons) when we were in Grade 6, and he showed up on the first day of school that year in a suit and tie and carrying a brief case which contained all his school supplies.
It was an all-boys school in a poorer part of the city, so most of the rest of us were not as concerned about our appearance as we should have been, so when George arrived at school all decked out in his best finery and clutching a brief case, it was certainly noticed.
Surrounded by adolescent boys from some of the tougher areas of the community, you might expect such a character would have provoked some sort of tormenting behaviour from his new classmates, but he seemed so alien to the rest of us that nobody was sure how to react to him.
But if he was ever concerned about what anybody thought of him, you’d never know it because George was on a mission from the first day I met him (and I suspect probably from the first second of his birth) that absolutely absorbed him, so he wasn’t aware of, or just didn’t care, about other people’s opinion of him.
George was intent on becoming an emergency-room doctor, and every fibre of his being was devoted to that task.
George was intelligent but he was no genius, so he worked quite hard at achieving the high grades he regularly attained as he went step-by-step through the years and his education to achieve his goal.
I remember he would come in to class some mornings with his finger tips wrapped in band-aids because he was up late writing so hard to get through his homework that his fingers would bleed.
In Grade 9, our science teacher wanted each of us to complete a project, and he gave us great latitude as to what that would be.
I went to the school library and borrowed a number of books on evolution and produced a six-page report on the subject.
While I was handing in my report on the day it was due, George came into the classroom carrying a glass aquarium with a skeleton of a cat in it that had all its parts labelled.
Apparently, George went to the city’s animal shelter and acquired a cat that was euthanized, brought it home and boiled all the skin, flesh and organs from the skeleton and set it up in an aquarium.
The room went dead silent as George laid his project in front of the teacher and the rest of us tried to hide our far inferior projects (like a quickly written six-page report on evolution) behind our backs before the teacher saw them.
Fortunately for the rest of us, this science teacher didn’t grade by a bell curve.
Once again, you’d think someone like George would be the victim of intense bullying like Sheldon Cooper and his fellow genius scientists constantly speak of in their childhoods on the hit television series, The Big Bang Theory, but I never saw anyone give him any trouble in all the years we went to school together.
That’s not to say bullying didn’t occur in our school; in fact it was pretty prevalent in an all-boys school where the students didn’t have any girls to district them.
I remember one unfortunate kid who was a genius that academics came easily to and was pushed ahead several grades was mercilessly picked on by his older and larger schoolmates who made his life pretty miserable.
But George, who literally worked his fingers to the bone on a regular basis to keep his grades up so he could go to medical school, had gained a measure of respect by then from even the worst bullies in the school and he was generally left alone; even with his suits, ties, briefcases and labelled cats.
I saw George just once since we graduated high school in a Tim Hortons and, sure enough, he was excited because he and his girlfriend had been accepted to medical school.
I recently did an Internet search and discovered that, since then, George had become an emergency-room doctor, just as he planned and worked so hard for, and is currently working at a hospital in New Brunswick.
When I’m ever in that neck of the woods again, I hope to drop in on Dr. George and tell him about the impression he made on me when we were kids.
I’m really looking forward to it.