My Uncle Ted

I was wary of adult men growing up . They made me uncomfortable and I didn’t trust them.

There were many exceptions of course, my mother’s brother Ted being one of them.

I absolutely loved visits to Uncle Ted’s house just outside of Chicago. We’d drive up there every Thanksgiving and have a wonderful, warm holiday with Ted as the quintessential host; a twinkle in his eye, a mischievous grin and some cleverly hilarious quip always at the ready.

In 1994, he killed himself. Kurt Cobain killed himself that same month. And Richard Nixon died the next day.

In fact, after the funeral, when word spread that Nixon had died, someone postulated that Ted had “dragged that son of a bitch with him” and all the middle-aged baby boomers had a good cathartic chuckle.

People were shocked. People were angry. The usual suicide stuff. No need to go into that.

The day he did it, before anyone knew he’d passed, my now-deceased aunt(Ted and my mother’s sister)reported seeing a bird on her bedroom windowsill. It tapped on the glass and wouldn’t go away. She stared at it for a moment, noting the featherless ring around its neck. It stared back at her for a few moments before disappearing back into the sky from which it had descended.

A few hours later, she got the call: Ted had hung himself in his garage. The housekeeper had discovered the body.

I stood in the garage, and I saw the indentation he’d carved into the rafter to keep the rope in place. It was chilling. The house hadn’t been occupied since he’d died. My aunt was staying elsewhere.

Ted was an a voracious reader, and there were books and magazines scattered throughout the house, almost as if he’d been trying to escape reality through reading. I could relate, as a depressed 15-year-old.

None of this matters, though, because how we die does not define our lives. We remember the good times, the good things, after time dulls the sharp edge of sudden, inexplicable finality that inevitably accompanies the suicide of a beloved family member.

In that spirit I present these photographs of Ted(or Tedd, the spelling seems to alternate from place to place so I’m not sure which spelling is correct)as he was before the struggle to exist became more of a burden than he could bear. I just feel that they’re lovely, vibrant photographs that deserve to be seen.

When perusing the freshly-developed pics of the rehearsal dinner for my first wedding, there was a pic of Ted’s widow sitting next to an empty chair. In the empty chair was an orange glow. I wish I still had that pic. Don’t know what became of it. But I always wondered if he was there…

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