George

In the summer of 2019, I was riding my bike on a bike path in Austin, Minnesota. I had only gotten lost twice before I passed a white-haired gentleman on a three-speed trike, stopped at the foot of a slope. I made a U-turn and asked if he needed help. The man said he could not change gears. He dismounted, and I rode his bike down the hill to change into an easier gear. A push up the hill gave him momentum to keep the pedals turning.

We exchanged names and “good days” and rode in opposite directions. After ¼ mile, I turned back. Sure enough, George needed another push. Riding alongside him, I pushed my new friend up the hills of Austin for the next twenty minutes. We chatted as we pedaled. George said he loved Austin—told me he never wanted to live anywhere else. He said he used to play tennis and told me he knew Jan, the owner of Rydjor Bike Shop, where I had just taken my bike for a brake adjustment.

As we rode up to a massive three-story white brick building, George thanked me for helping him get back home. My mouth dropped open when I read the massive sign in front. It said, “Cedars Senior Living Community, A Place to Call Home.” George lived in an assisted living/nursing home. 

George and I chained up his bike, walked through the dimly lit garage, and slipped into an unlocked back door. He plopped into a cozy, orange tweed chair in a sitting area outside the dining room, wiped his brow and gulped a glass of water. As we sat together, George shared his story with me.

“You know, this building we’re in was originally a hotel. My wife and I stayed here on our honeymoon. It was the nicest place in town then. This is where we began our lives together . . . and my dear bride took her last breath here in December, a week before Christmas. We moved here last summer when I could not take care of her by myself anymore. It’s been hard, but I’m thankful I was here with her, holding her hand when she passed. I miss her, but I know she’s in a better place.”

Nodding, I told George I hated to go. We hugged, took a couple of selfies, and said goodbye. My heart ached.

His head dropped as I turned to walk away. I could have and should have stayed to listen to more stories—sat and held his hand a little longer. I think of George often. How he had gotten so far from home, I will never know, and I still wonder what he would have done had I not been riding by.

Months later, when I looked back at my photos, I realized George’s story might not be entirely true. The building where he lived did not look that old. I looked at the website and learned The Cedars Senior Living Community building was only 30 years old. Disappointed, I realized George must have been mistaken about him and his bride staying in the same building for their honeymoon. It made for a sweet story, though.

However . . . upon further investigation, I discovered they built the new assisted living addition to connect to the old motel in town. What used to be the Red Cedar Inn has become the memory care unit of The Cedars. George’s story was true!

George died at The Cedars last year. I thought you should know the world lost a good man. Rest in peace, George. Rest in peace.

Is there someone in your past you wish you had spent a little more time with? Please scroll down and share below.