My Neighbor George: A Love Story

By LISA BOYLE | Special to the Palisadian-Post

George winks and says of the day we met that I “accosted” him on the street.

George was crossing the street with his walker, his long, silver hair pulled back in low ponytail. He sported a handsome vest and cap.

Good friends: George and Lisa
Photos courtesy of Lisa Boyle

I met him in an intersection on the El Medio Bluffs, and I held his arm as we walked to the curb. I told him I was just out of a walker myself after double hip surgery earned by years of competitive running.

George had been a runner, too. Now we are neighbors separated by one street and 35 years of age. Those years mean nothing and everything.

The difference in years means nothing because George and I became fast friends. When I first knocked on his door after our meeting in the street, he cheerfully called my name and we sat and spoke for a long while in his neat living room, full of family photographs and musical instruments.

During my recovery from surgery, I told George all about my gradually longer hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains. George knows every bend of the trails, as he had also been an avid hiker in these mountains.

“Did you make it to Skull Rock?” he asks.

The years between us mean everything because as I came to treasure my friend George, I told him I wished we had met when we could have hiked together.

Lisa delivers a Christmas tree to George.

I am often traveling to my other home in Nashville, and I miss George. We text. He is in the process of checking out a retirement complex over an hour away, and I feel the preciousness of the time I have with George as a neighbor.

George is a remarkable man. At close to 90, he is still 6’ 2” tall, has sparkling eyes and an ageless laugh that bursts forth like music.

Here are five amazing things I have learned from George:

1. J. D. Salinger was a notorious no show. The famed author of “Catcher in the Rye” was a student at George’s military academy, Valley Forge, 10 years before George was a student there. Before Salinger was famous for his novel, he was famous at Valley Forge for missing role call. Ten years after Salinger left the academy and well before being hailed as a writer, his name was called out as “Salinger, J. D., not present” in a tradition harking back to his serial failure to show.

2. Composer John Adams, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in music and many Grammys, was a great junior high school clarinet player before he was a famous composer. George was Adams’ teacher at Rundlett Junior High, and Adams would ask George to look at already complex compositions.

3. Being a clown can be dangerous. Once George was standing on Pennsylvania Avenue within sight of the Capitol, playing his horn in full clown costume for traffic when a gang of Hells Angels rode up on their cycles. George noticed some of the riders checking him out and giggling but their big, tough leader with a big, red beard remained stone faced looking forward. George put his horn down, titled his head toward the leader of the gang, made a similar stone face and pantomimed revving his engines on handlebars. A tense moment ensued, but the gang busted up laughing, and luckily the light changed.

4. A great love is powerfully present even after death. George’s love story is with his late wife Estelle, a talented harpist and church organist who shared her gift bedside at hospices and hospitals before she was taken by cancer. George’s love for Estelle is a living, breathing love. At almost 90, George is in no rush to join Estelle on the other side, but he is comforted by an eventual reunion.

5. Take time to meet your neighbors—even if you have to “accost” them in the street. They may enrich your life immensely and teach you about love.

Lisa Kaas Boyle is a Palisadian since 1990 when she moved to her law school sweetheart’s hometown. Lisa and David Boyle live around the corner from David’s childhood home. They have two Palisadian natives, Lili (22) and Jake (20).