Big George.

I remember the day I met them- Tuesday, February 2, 1982.

They had just moved in two doors up the road, into our neighborhood.  It was announced the week before that a new girl was arriving in our class.  So I had a feeling that the new girl was also moving in up the street.  That assumption was confirmed when my mother encouraged me to go up to their house and introduce myself.  “She’s the new girl and you should make her feel welcome,” she reasoned with me.  “And besides, it’s hard to be starting a new school halfway through the year.”     

So, I walked up the street, little sister in tow, and rang the front doorbell of 726 West Prospect.   It was a noisy house.  The door opened, and I walked into the house.  I introduced myself, and my sister.  “I live down the street.  And my brother’s birthday is tomorrow,” I said.  I wasn’t much of a conversation starter back in the day.  That’s when I met the new girl, Katherine.  I looked around and started piecing things together.  The reason it was so noisy is because all of these big people lived there.  I mean really big people, as compared to my second grade stature, everyone was big to me.  I wonder how many of them there were in here?  I looked around and saw boxes everywhere.  Nothing was fully unpacked yet.  One of the tall girls had her head in the kitchen sink and was washing her hair.  Hmmm.  No one washes their hair in the sink in my house.  Oh, and they had funny accents.  I couldn’t fully understand what they were saying all the time.  But, when you’re seven years old, everyone is hard to understand.  I would come to find out that their accents were from NY.

Katherine and I became inseparable.  This girl and her tall  family, became an extension of my family.  We had alot in common because we both had so many siblings.  Each family had 7 kids, but at the opposite end of the age spectrum. Their oldest was 15 years older than our oldest; our youngest was 14 years younger than their youngest.  It was like we were one big 14 sibling family!  I would ride my Huffy bike, with the basket and the ribbons on the handles, to their house every day after school.  And I never had to ring the doorbell.  I could just knock and walk right in.  Mrs. Loos would often be found at her sewing machine in the dining room, and Mr. Loos would be in the garage, with his goggles on, making another masterpiece. Mr. Loos, he was the patriarch of this “tall” family.  Big George, as he was affectionately called, was a kind man. He was a funny man.  He was a loving, generous man. You would often find Mr. Loos at our house when things broke.  Let’s just say we weren’t the handiest of families, so if a light fixture broke in the kitchen, Mom would call Mr. Loos before ever calling an electrician. He would always come down, no matter what he was doing.

Suzabelle.  That is name that he gave me when I was a kid.  It was a term of endearment for his 8th child, as Mr. Loos liked to call me. Not like he needed another kid 🙂  I became the consummate tag-along with the Loos Family.  I just thought they were the coolest family ever.  They were athletic, they were smart, they were tall.  They became my big brothers and sisters.  I used to go to the girl’s bedroom and have them braid my hair because I thought having a big sister was so cool.  They taught me about  music, they had cable TV, and played video games.  They always included me. I would say some of my best memories were with the Loos Family.

I used to eat dinner with them all the time.  Especially when it was Pizza Friday.  I would sit around the table, with all of these older, wiser and hipper people, and just listen to them.  They were always so funny.  Especially Mr. Loos.  He had this really deep, hearty laugh.  So when he laughed, you laughed right along side of him.  They had this prayer before dinner.  They would sit around the table, hold hands and start saying Grace. “Bless us Oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about the receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen.”  But, the best part came at the end.  They would add “Alleluia, Squeeze Squeeze”.  They would squeeze each other’s hands twice.  How cool is that?

My brothers will tell the story that when they were the paperboys for the neighborhood, Mr. Loos would always give them a hard time when it was pay day.  When you’re 5 foot tall, talking to a man 15 inches taller than you, with a bald head and a NY accent, he could be intimidating– but it was all in jest. They would purposely go to the Loos house on Sundays during a NY Football Giants game, hoping that Mr. Loos wouldn’t answer the door.  At least they could say they tried 🙂  As JP got older, he would just go up to their house and hang out with Mr. Loos. I’m not sure what their conversations consisted of, but if we couldn’t find JP, we’d dial their number, and he’d show up on their front lawn.

We lost Mr. Loos a year ago today.  He died peacefully, with no pain, and with his wife by his side.  He will forever be remembered for his kind soul and his playful sense of humor.

As I continue to find the meaning of my own difficult journey, I think back to sitting in the congregation, mourning the loss of this great man. Emily walked through his life lessons so that we could all learn something from the way he lived his life.  Those words rang in my ear, and I remember nodding the entire time, envisioning Mr. Loos saying these words to me:

  1. Tell funny stories, especially when they are about you.
  2. Few things are better than laughter from a well-timed joke.
  3. Read, read, read.
  4. It’s okay to be goofy.
  5. Always make time for friends – old and new.
  6. Always make time for naps.
  7. A messy desk is a sign of genius.
  8. Go to church.
  9. Eat your Cheerios.

As I continue my recovery with GBS, I take these lessons with me.  I promise to work hard, as I channel the quiet strength and conviction of Big George. I think about my life now, and what I can do to live a life as Mr. Loos would expect.  Here’s how I’m doing so far.

  1. I have many new funny stories, especially through my struggles with GBS.  I will continue to share them with great pleasure and humility.
  2. Laughter is the way I have learned to heal.
  3. I try to read as much as possible. Even if it’s only for a short time.  Resting the mind is the only way I can relax after a tough day.
  4. I’ve been a goof ball for a long time.  It’s been a tough road, and by finding the humor every day, I’ve found a sense of balance.
  5. I have made many new friends at Bryn Mawr Rehab- both patients and caregivers.  I will always make the time for the people who helped me learn how to walk again, and for those who cheered me on as I learned.
  6. I always make time for naps.  Period.
  7. I haven’t seen my office desk in some time, but rumor is that it’s just as messy as I left it in July.
  8. I have a deep faith, and have held onto my faith, and my guardian angels, to help me through this challenge.
  9. I bought a bulk size box of Cheerios in July.  I eat my Cheerios and drink my coffee every morning, in honor of my grandparents, and now for Mr. Loos.

I am getting better each day because of my strong determination and will to heal. However, I won’t forget the kind man, who always made me feel like I was part of his family, even at the age of 7.  So, I’ll cherish the memories we had for the past 30 years, and feel very lucky that his tall, funny, accented family chose West Prospect Avenue to move into that February morning.

Another track to add to your playlist.  One of Mr. Loos’s Favorites- Let me Call You Sweetheart.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.


9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by MArgaret on October 28, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    Thank you for the lovely tribute to my dad, we miss him everyday. As you and I have said many a time about Big George, “they don’t make them like that any more!”
    Hang in there Suz, keep eating your cheerios!


  2. Posted by George Loos on October 27, 2011 at 11:08 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on Big George.
    My dad once said that one of his proudest accomplishments in life is that all of his children get along so well as adults. Given the fact that all members of Team Carney are considered siblings, I think that he would have been especially proud to see us at the football game on the Saturday before he died. His whole “gang” together, laughing really hard. And then the following Saturday at Emily’s house together, and laughing really hard again.
    Keep up the good work.
    -Little George


  3. Posted by Pamela on October 27, 2011 at 9:19 PM

    Suzabelle (and I can hear that name just like my dad would say it),
    Thank you so much for these memories and tribute. You are a real sweetheart for taking the time to write this on this day. If my dad were here today he’d say his eighth child was “a tough egg” and would be better soon.

    Call on us when you need cheerleading!



  4. Posted by marygrace loos curry on October 27, 2011 at 7:36 PM

    This was a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. George was my fathers brother, my uncle and godfather. He is sorely missed but wonderfully remembered


  5. Posted by Emily on October 27, 2011 at 6:45 PM

    Thanks so much for honoring my dad. I loved reading your memories. He was a funny, kind, generous dad and I am proud that he touched, and continues to touch, so many lives.
    Keep on writing. Keep getting better. And always look for the awesome in every day. Love, Emily


  6. Posted by sylvia loos on October 27, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    Dear Suzabelle, How very touching. Your kind thoughts and remembrances are so meaningful to me. Thank you.
    We had many a good time on West Prospect. We were truly blessed to have had such a great neighborhood. Being able to maintain so many of our friendships has been a precious gift to me.


  7. Posted by katherine major on October 27, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    I loved reading your memories of my dad.
    We were all so lucky to have him to fix everything around the house, to help with our math homework and to throw in invisible ball into the paper bag.
    Thank you for this tribute and keep your chin up, sister!


  8. Posted by Cecilia on October 27, 2011 at 12:55 PM

    Suzy – This is such a wonderful tribute. Thank you.

    One correction: We NEVER had cable growing up. George & Ted would have to go up to John Owens’s house to watch Andre the Giant vs. Big John Studd.

    You forgot to mention how awesome you were last year in taking care of us.

    Thanks again – and continue to get well!



  9. Posted by Bruce Givnish on October 27, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    Suz- Thank you so much for sharing your memories of Big George!! Karen & I were kids when we moved in next door at 728, so George was a fantastic father figure & mentor to me. We are so lucky to have such great people touch our lives! Keep up the good work! Bruce


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