Though I did not know it, on August 3, 2010 I lost one of the dearest friends I have ever known. I was informed of his death a few days later and, in shock, spent the next two days crying while my brother (who was visiting from another state) entertained himself in my living room.
The e-mail I received was terrifying. It read: “Please call.”
The phone call was devastating. The news was not broken to me gently because his wife did not, at first, understand who I was.
Today is the one year and one month anniversary of his death. The one year anniversary came and went while I was busy transitioning from one country to another and from a temporary home at a hotel to a permanent one in our flat.
But I think of him everyday.
He was 86 when I met him, had serious health problems, spoke in a quiet slur and hung back from the group of other World War II veterans. He paid me the greatest compliments any man in my life ever has, and by the end of my week with him we held hands everywhere we went. He was insistent that he was not a war hero and spoke more during that week about his life following the war than his life during it, and I am forever grateful that I was able to meet him first as a hero but given the chance to love him as a person. His name was Theodore but his family called him ‘T.’ Except me. To me he was Ted.
On August 7, Brice and I attended his funeral and I met his family for the first time. His wife clung to my arm as she greeted people following the ceremony, and his daughter was so sweet and welcoming that I burst into tears every time she spoke to me. They told me I was part of the family. They told me that he hadn’t stopped speaking of me since he’d returned home. They told me I’d changed his life.
But by then I was crying too hard to tell them how much he’d changed mine.