Sometimes you just have to pack a bag, get in your car, and go on a road trip by yourself.
I did that this weekend.
Ted babysat the dogs, and I headed for Georgia. My original intent was to visit my very best friend in all the world – Helen McCorvey – and her husband Paul. I did that, but I also got to spend time with cousin Wanda in Sylvester, spend two nights with wonderful friends Dawn and her husband Stevie – AND got to see tons of friends at the ri’vah (where we lived for many years before we moved to Florida). It was a very special few days, and I arrived home Sunday afternoon with my heart overflowing with the joy of friendships that never change – regardless of how much time has passed since we’ve even been in the same state.
Helen was my Junior year English teacher at Worth County High School in Sylvester GA. Paul taught me World History. Neither had been long out of college. It was Paul’s fourth year teaching and Helen’s second. Paul made history as exciting as it could be for this girl who hates history, but the time I spent in Helen’s class changed my life forever. She taught words and language and expression with a passion I’d never heard before. She opened the world of writing to me and planted the seed that took years to germinate into a blog – but germinate it did, and I have Helen to thank for that.
But that’s not where the story ends. In the late 80’s I was a single mom working in a bank when Helen was named Public Information Director for the Dougherty County School System in Albany GA. I heard she was looking for a secretary and called her, even though we hadn’t spoken in almost 20 years. I told her who I was, said I’d heard she needed a secretary and that I was interested in the job. She said, “Can you type?” I said, “Yes, I can.” She said, “You’re hired.”
And so a relationship, which began in a high school English class, has now spanned over 50 years. I worked for Helen until she retired, and what I learned from her over those years qualified me to take not her place (nobody could) – but her position in the school system, where I worked until my own retirement.
Working for Helen was like being in her class every day of the year. She taught me more than I could have ever learned from anyone else (the mechanics of publications, writing, design and marketing), but instead of giving me grades on a report card, she gave me her friendship. Over the years Ted and I, she and Paul, and another couple went on annual “after-Christmas” trips to the beach together. We exchange gifts and cards on important occasions, and we love each other across the miles that separate us.
Helen hails from Charleston and is the consummate genteel Southern lady. She still speaks with a Charleston drawl that I admit took me a while to understand back in the day. The first time she asked me to look in a “draaaaw” for something, I scratched my head and said, “Ma’am?” I finally figured out she was saying “drawer”.
Helen always dressed to perfection, with never a hair out of place and with makeup perfectly applied. None of that has changed a lick. She was always prepared, always had projects ready ahead of deadline, would not accept anything but perfection in grammar and punctuation (I always worry about that since I know she reads this blog), and made it all look as easy and natural as breathing.
As a friend she is loyal, trustworthy, true, kind and loving. She saw me through some of the roughest times of my life and never once judged the many mistakes I made. She was the big sister I never had, and I love her to the moon and back. I remain in awe that she feels the same way about me.
In a nutshell, Helen was my hero. She still is.
When Helen retired, I gave her a little framed memento that read, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I hope mine is right next door to yours.” Lord, I pray you work out a way to make that happen, even if I’m just in the shed out back.
I’m still smiling about seeing this beautiful lady this weekend. We went out to eat lunch at the Bulloch House in Warm Springs, and everyone in the place knew Helen and Paul. That didn’t surprise me at all. They’re just good people.
Hope to see you again soon, Helen and Paul! Love you more.
More on my time at Lake Blackshear this weekend in a couple of days! It was so much fun!