The day I turned twenty-nine was the last day I enjoyed the company of my brother Ted. Teddy, as he had been called throughout our childhood, was my brother, four years my junior, and next to the youngest of my siblings. His freckled face and huge dimples gave him the face that people mirrored with a grin, every time they saw him. Even at just shy of twenty-five, Ted, now all grown up, possessed the nature that drew people to him. His grin was contagious.
Ted left my house that night,
Saturday, July 11, 1987, filled with enthusiasm. It was the first time in the fourteen months since he moved to Tallahassee, FL, that he had Sunday off from work. He was going to “stay up all night, if it killed him.” It did. He fell asleep at the wheel of his truck on his way back from Pensacola, where he’d gone to “sit on the beach for a while.”
That Sunday was a blur to me. I had the unenviable honor of informing my father that his son had died. This came less than two years after I’d had to tell my father that his father had perished in a house fire. These are not things a person wants to do, but they are the things a person must do, as these are the terms of life.
Two of my other brothers came to help me take care of Ted’s “estate.” The estate of a not quite twenty-five year old is not substantial. In fact, his possessions were few. Amongst the piles of dirty/clean clothes, and mail (opened and unopened) were the items that defined Ted. There was the saxophone my mother had found at a garage sale for $20. There was the legal pad with the “novel” he had been writing. There were letters from friends, male and female. And there were photos. There were photos of Ted with family and photos of Ted with friends. In every photo, smiles were abundant.
Very few photos were of Ted by himself. Many of the best photos were of Ted and my youngest brother Ray. 22 months apart, these two had always been members of the group in our family know as, “the boys,” and the further subset known as, “the little boys.” At 6’2 and 6’3, the “little boys” were still just that to me, though I stood only 5' 4 1/2" tall. As we went through Ted’s evidence of existence, Ray commented, with a catch in his voice, I’ve lost half a photograph.
More than 19 years later, I look at the photo I have hanging on the side of my fridge. The photo is of Ted, and his little puppy, which was stolen before Ted’s death. His deep dimples still make me smile. His photo is etched in my heart as are his smiles. I have never before written of his life or his passing. I wanted to tonight.