George Andrews stood in front of me Wednesday evening, smack in the middle of Ernest’s Dining Room at NAIT before a recent awards ceremony with two straws. One in his left hand, and one in his right.
“Here,” said George, a good friend since the mid-90’s when he came to Edmonton to work for the United Way of the Capital Region. “Try this one first.”
A little background: I live with cerebral palsy and can’t hold a glass to my mouth. So, when I have a drink — even of the alcoholic variety — I require a straw to enjoy a liquid refreshment.
George handed me the straw he was clutching in his right hand. My most capable assistant Alysson, otherwise known as Mrs. Wonderful, put the straw in my bubbling champagne. I took a big sip: I was thirsty.
I got nothing … but air. George started laughing. And then, so did I.
“You thoughtI forgot, eh?” he asked. “Well, I didn’t.”
Then, he handed me the straw in his left hand. It worked, and as we sipped champagne, we reminisced.
George, now the vice-president of external relations and chief development officer at NAIT, is a big fan of Rick Hansen. When I shared with him that I covered the Man In Motion World Tour for five months between August 1986 and May 1987, he was eager to hear a few stories. One, in particular, centred around Glenn de Goeij the RCMP member who escorted Rick through Alberta. Glenn is quite the prankster. When the tour hit Edmonton, he tour crew and Glenn and his beautiful wife Kong went for dinner at the old Italian Gardens downtown.
I ordered a beer. Glenn asked for two straws for me and I thought he was being thoughtful. Think again.
Glenn poked a hole in one of them. Air! That’s all I got while Glenn bent over in laughter. And, that became standing joke for the rest of the tour.
I told George the story and forgot about it until Wednesday night. He poked a hole in my straw.
After a good visit, he put his hand on my shoulder and posed a great question: “What are friends for?”