I arrived at my first monthly business meeting a few minutes before anybody else. I noticed as I waited that I felt none of the anxiety that always, always accompanied me prior to encounters with strangers. After the meeting, it struck me that there was something sharply here-and-now about these people. I suspected it would prove to be a good thing for me.
Garfield Parker, the very "Mr. Parker" to whom my physical therapist alluded, was one of the first people to enter the room before the meeting started. I introduced myself. Garfield told me his name. I mentioned that Michelle had dropped his name a few weeks before. He mused that "people are always dropping my name." It was true. Garfield was a teacher of fifth grade at Northumberland Elementary School, nearing the end of his teaching career.
Everybody knew him and everybody adored him.
Garfield was president of the local teachers' association. He was a founding member of the Mid-County squad and had held just about every office the squad had to offer. Garfield was the county's favorite CPR instructor. He was a deacon and trustee of the Macedonia Baptist Church. He sat on the board of directors at Rappahannock General Hospital and on the planning board for Northumberland County. He shepherded a troop of Boy Scouts.
Garfield was an emergency medical technician (EMT), like the people who scraped me up off the pavement when I hit that dog on my bicycle). He was an EMT-Cardiac Technician, an EMS certification unique to Virginia at the time. (The EMT-CT certification was the second highest one could achieve in Virginia in those days, just one level under EMT-Paramedic. To be a Paramedic is to attain the Supreme and Holiest of EMT certifications. It wins one the privilege to sitteth on the right hand of the operational medical director and impose one's views on everybody else.) Cardiac Tech was a certification that imparted the highly prized power of advanced life support (ALS) skills--starting intravenous lines and administering medications. To certify as a cardiac tech required extensive knowledge of the mechanics of the human heart, as well as all its potential ailments and the treatments thereof, from oxygen through lidocane and amiodarone.