Yesterday truly sucked. I had already heard that two members of my extended family had passed away when the phone rang, from a friend who usually doesn’t call. He was crying. Oh shit. Our friend, Ted, had died. He’d been in the hospital for cancer surgery, but it had gone well, and he’d been sent home in great spirits. But he collapsed and died yesterday morning. Life is so damned fragile.
I’ve done very little productive anything since then. I’ve just been watching the pool fill up and thinking about how much Ted’s friendship has meant to me. To be clear, Ted’s friendship has meant a lot to pretty much everyone he knew. He had a way of really being with his friends, listening to them, and sharing from his heart. I know so many people who treasure him. But, I don’t know their stories, just mine.
So, indulge me for a bit and read about some of the highlights of my life with this amazing soul. I met Ted at work, my first time at Dell, when I met so many of our mutual friends, including my very own husband. We were a merry bunch of instructional designers and technical trainers, oh yes. It’s thanks to Ted that I got my final contract job of the long period of uncertainty I’d been going through at the time. I owe a lot to Ted.
Our time together at the little training company, Akibia, was both challenging and incredibly fun. I sat next to Ted (I had the desk with the view out the window, which featured deer, cats, dragonflies, and at one time, snow). When the other guys in the office were out doing training, we would work, chat, laugh, and tell stories. Ted insisted I get on Facebook so I could see what my kids were doing, but it backfired when I posted the photo above and his slightly off-kilter ex-wife found it and started pounding me with questions about Ted. After that, there weren’t many photos of our escapades that got tagged.
But oh yes, we had escapades. We had lunch together nearly every day for three years, so I really got to know the restaurants on Parmer Avenue near MoPac in Austin. We were often joined by our friends, who included Russell (my future real estate partner), Nathan (the one who called me yesterday), and a guy named Norman. We would cram into Ted’s tiny little car (he loved his Honda Fit, like, a LOT) and then we’d proceed to have politically incorrect conversations that would have me laughing so hard my cheeks hurt. We had inside jokes about so many things, but my favorite was the local chain Twin Liquors, where we made a lot of stops, considering we were on lunch break. You can imagine the shenanigans.
Ted taught me a lot about instructional design, e-learning, and technical editing (mainly me editing his stuff), so we did do work, as well. But mostly we talked about our families, our problems, and relationships. You see, Ted wanted to marry and have a family, but damn, he was picky. We would endlessly analyze potential dates on whatever site he used. He’d find someone who seemed great to me, but he’d reject her. I remember one woman was rejected because she didn’t want to get out of the car in the rain without an umbrella. She was not outdoorsy enough. Boom.
He was always trying to make me watch long videos to learn about things, like music, politics, and philosophy. I was always trying to get him to read articles. We ended up summarizing things for each other, because I just didn’t have the time to sit through long videos, and as Ted repeatedly reminded me, he was NOT a reader. And he’d tell people, “Sue Ann’s a reader.” It was funny at the time.
A favorite memory was the time our boss, Sharon, decided to host a team-building campout at the lake across the street from her house. We were all up for it, and showed up in our motley collection of tents, sleeping bags, and such. Lee and I set up in the back of his truck, which had a new camper shell. People brought their dogs, which included Ted’s beloved white German Shepherd Dog, Bella, and a sweet boxer our admin Charissa owned. We ate and drank (mostly drinking mojitos Sharon and I made). Some of us drank a lot.
I guess it’s good that I can’t find the photos of Russell looking like a beached whale after he’d swum across the lake to rescue Charissa and her boyfriend, who’d gotten stuck in the canoe. That was exciting. Ted, the experienced outdoorsman (he had a previous career as a wilderness guide in Alaska or something like that and had worked a long time with the outdoorsy folks at Whole Earth in Austin), wisely chose to stay on land.
It just got weirder and weirder, though, with me ending up smoking a cigar, which to this day remains the only thing I’ve ever smoked. I remember waking up to Ted pointing over at Russ’s tent, which had completely collapsed on him, and he hadn’t even noticed. That’s the kind of fun one ended up having with Ted and the Akibia gang.
After I left there and then Akibia closed down, we all stayed friends. Russell and Carol had a long series of wine tastings, so I got to see Ted often at those. Eventually those gatherings included the woman he finally did NOT reject, which was his wonderful wife, Lori. He also got great step kids out of the deal, and I can’t tell you how happy I was that they found each other. My heart is aching for Lori now; one of the last things he posted to Facebook before he went in for his surgery was how much he loved her.
I may have mentioned that Ted loved music. He, Lee, and I had so many great musical conversations. Once, back when I was singing with Funkatonic, the band at my old UU church, we needed someone to play keyboards. I nominated Ted, because he’d been wanting a chance to play somewhere.
We had so much fun rehearsing, and the songs came out pretty darned good! I’m very happy to have videos of those performances that I can share with you. It’s not great rock and roll, but it sure was a lot of fun. We had both wanted to be in a band together, so that little dream came true, at least. I wish we could have done that more, but time and personnel changed…and I inconveniently lost my ability to sing.
If you want to watch Ted in the band, and me dancing (a thing that, much like cigar smoking, happened once), click the photo!
I guess that’s enough wandering through memory lane…there are a lot of memories, because we had a lot of fun. I didn’t see Ted much after he remarried, but he always was, and always will be, my friend. I think that’s a Star Trek reference, isn’t it?
I do feel a lot better now that I’ve gathered this all up in a nice story for me to read again when I miss Ted. And I’ll play this song, since I don’t cry anymore, myself.
I’m wearing the shirt that goes with this song today.
Not a lot of festive holiday spirit over here. But, I have a candle lit for Ted, along with the roses Lee bought me when he heard what happened. Treasure your friends. I’ve lost too many lately, and so many people have lost their dear friend, Ted.