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Finding Ted


November 2, 2016

I have a tendency to lose people. I consider it a character flaw. And because I am also fiercely loyal, this tendency can lead to debilitating guilt that I carry around like a sack in my psyche. Modern technology has done little to help me. Where I used to keep a small (OK, bulging) address book filled with a half-century’s worth of friends and relatives, I now rely on my Contacts app, which may or may not keep in sync with each successive operating system. Besides, I’m just not very organized.

So there are friends and relatives who bob up and down in my consciousness like victims of a shipwreck, their muffled cries haunting my dreams.

Recently, when my husband suggested we take a road-trip to Maine, a pair of those old friends came to mind. Ted and Eileen had been family friends throughout my life. Their daughter and I were in the same nursery school class. Later, we lived across Central Park from each other. They were the witnesses for my mother’s third and best marriage.

Ted was a lumberjack of a man, six foot five and handsome with a booming warm-hearted voice and a big bear-hug of a greeting. But the best part of Ted was his straightforwardness. Coming as I did from a family fraught with subterfuge, I recognized this trait as rare and essential.

Eileen was as diminutive as he was large. But they shared this ability to acknowledge truth, however painful. I always thought that must have been what kept them together through some of their family’s most tragic events. The last time I talked to them, 15 years ago, they were living in Maine.

So I agreed to the Maine jaunt, thinking that between lighthouse photo ops and lobster rolls I would try to find Ted and Eileen. It’s a small state. I went to the Internet and found an address in Portland for one of the many Teds and Theodores with the same last name as our friends. It was there I found Eileen’s obituary. She had died in 2013. I called the phone number I guessed was our Ted’s, and heard the familiar warm voice, a little rougher and older, on the answering machine, and left a message.

As we were leaving Maine, I set the GPS to the address associated with the phone number and found an apartment complex near the waterfront. Still no word from Ted. I looked for a reception desk, but all the doors were locked. As we were about to leave, an older woman exited a doorway. I took a chance and told her I was looking for Ted. “Oh, he hasn’t lived here for five or six years,” she told me. Deflated, I thanked her, and as I turned back to the car she said, “He’s at 75 State Street, now.”