Friday, May 23, 2014

Remembering Ted - Early Days

I can’t remember anymore when I actually met Ted.  He liked to tell people that I was promised to him in the womb but that was so not true. I think I knew his sister, Helen first and met Ted through her. We both grew up in the same neighborhood.  He lived on 61st street and I lived on 64th street.  3 blocks made no difference—all the kids congregated in the playground which was on 64th street or “the barrels” which were play structures closer to 61st street. 
I know that we were boyfriend and girlfriend in junior high school (now they call it middle school) and I’m sure we knew each other before that.

Ted was one of a trio of boys who hung out together.  There was Ted, Darryl and Gregory—later they were joined by another boy—Luther (called Junior).  What got your attention first was Ted’s walk.  He, Darryl and Gregory would walk down the street together.  They were fast walkers.  Ted had a loose gaited walk—arms flailing all over the place, long stride; Darryl walked on his toes with a bounce and I can’t even remember how Gregory walked but they were all really cute, and when you saw them walking it was like they were in tandem—arms, legs, exponential swagger…

Not only did Ted have a distinctive walk, he was a cool dresser.  He loved fine clothes and shoes.  One of his early jobs was in a shoe store called Feldman’s.  He talked a lot about what he learned about dealing with the public while delivering the beautiful, fine leather shoes that Feldman’s was known for. He worked hard and saved his money.  He was one of the first of our group to get a brand new car and his own apartment in the Bronx complete with the cool 70's beads that hung from the doorway.  He was absolutely too cool for school.

A date with Ted was not just a movie and pizza.  He introduced me to my first play (a play about Jack Johnson the boxer), my first modern dance show (Alvin Ailey).  We went to museums, rode bikes in Central Park (even though I was far from athletic). We did things that other young black kids were not doing.  Ted was always different and so was I—we fit together very well. 

We talked a lot about our dreams—good jobs, a home in the suburbs.  I say we talked a lot but Ted did most of the talking—I was a great listener.  As the years went on I became a better talker—he was always the idea man and I was the implementer.  He could conceive it and I could figure out how to make it happen—He was the 30,000 foot person—I was closer to the ground--the detail person.  Yup, a good match.

We sometimes (no probably many times) butted heads.  I wanted the finer life—fast. Ted wanted the finer life but slowly—save for what you want—don’t charge it.  Somehow we met in the middle after many trips but, thank God, no major falls.  It was a while before I figured out that he was an Aires (the ram) and I was a Taurus (the bull)—of course we would butt heads.  We both wanted things our way. 

Luckily we did meet in the middle and were able to navigate 40 years of marriage with some scars, of course, but no major wounds.  As the years together ticked up, people would ask us what was the secret to a long marriage.  We both figured it out that once we had decided that divorce was no longer an option, everything became easier. In the early days and years of our marriage, I would throw around the “d” word very easily.  I was struggling with the concept of partnership.  I was raised in a single-parent home and my mom made all the rules so I really had no time for making decisions by committee.  Ted was methodical.  No decision was ever made quickly.  His favorite answer to a question was either “No” or “I’ll think about it”, which usually meant “No” also.  This was in the 70’s and I sometimes felt like I was giving up who I was to be a wife—the mother thing I got very easily it was the relationship part that was difficult for me.  Ted often said being a father was the most difficult job for him—for me, in those early days, being a wife was the most difficult part.  I eventually got it figured out that there was a comfortable way to be a wife and still be “me”.  Ted was patient. Even when I continually tried to get the bank to put my name on the top of our joint checks!!!  Those were the things that made me crazy.  Of course, my name never made the top of the checks and soon enough, it made no difference to me.  In the early days it was all about who had the power.  I remember telling Ted if he just admitted that I was the boss, everything would be OK.  Well you know the answer to that!  So we stumbled along and before we knew it, we were coasting.

In the early days I loved to hear Ted talk.  He could talk for hours on so many topics. He had a head for economics, finance, geography and history and was not shy about letting you know what he knew.  In the early days I loved listening—in the middle years—not so much—in the last year when he became silent—I would have given anything to hear him drop his knowledge.  But as our son Lateef said at Ted's funeral, I think he had talked enough—there was no more to be said.

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