I have known Theodore Edward for over 50 years. He has been a constant in my life, even when I was too ‘busy’ to pay him any attention. He’s worn his fair share of my tears on his shoulder. He’s truly been the only one in my life who knew exactly what I was thinking/feeling without me ever having to say a word.
Theodore Edward was his formal name, and I nicknamed him Ted E. It seemed appropriate (you’ll know why soon).
Only recently did I look at Ted E. (coming away from one of those times when I wasn’t giving him any attention) and realize that he is showing his age. He’s gotten a bit gray, his hair was matted and it seems that he was falling apart at the seams here and there. My negligence really hit home – the fact that I’ve always known he was there and that he would always be there.
So, I decided to give him a “bath”, a gentle one with gentle soap and not a lot of rubbing. He looked much better, and I left him sitting comfortably for a few days in order to completely dry.
When I reached out to pick him up, I discovered that he has more open seams then closed ones. I guess it then dawned on me that the thread holding him together was, after all, 50 (or more) years old and had probably started to dry rot. I got out needle and thread and attempted to sew all of those open seams closed again. It seemed that, whenever I would turn the body in my hand to find the next place to sew, the pressure of my fingers was enough to create another open seam. Still, I did the very best I could and then set him behind a clear door of my etagere.
For about 3 weeks, I looked at him behind that door at least once a day. Ted E. was a gift from my grandparents on my 16th birthday, and he had great sentimental value to me (not only as a gift, but I adored my maternal grandmother beyond words). I had recently joked to my brother that, when it came time to cremate me, I wanted Ted E. with me. But now, when I looked at him, I realized that no one but me would honor his existence and seeing him in the shape he was in made me sad. I suppose it was akin to a beloved but ill pet and making the tough decision to let go. The thought that he would be tossed into a trash bag with little thought made me sad.
So, I did what only an overly emotional person would do. I took Ted E. out of his place behind the door and held him. I talked with him and told him that I would be there for him until he completely fell apart. I held him or had him sitting on my lap many hours of each day, and all of that touching did, of course, make all of those places I hadn’t touched with a needle and thread start to fall apart. I turned the key in his back that made music play, and though it was a little tinny, I hummed along each time I did. Selfishly, I slept with him, hugging him tightly. Within less than 2 weeks, he started to seriously fall apart, and I cleaned up after him and continued to remind him that it was okay, and that he was ready to go, he had my blessing.
He fell apart almost from bottom to top. His legs, then his arms, then his body, until he was in pieces with only his head fully intact.
I took him in my arms like a baby and told him that I was so grateful for all of the times that he let me cry on his shoulder, for all of the times he listened to things I couldn’t say to anyone else without judging me and that I would never, ever forget him and how he loved me unceasingly for all of these years. Then I wrapped him up carefully in a box, sealed the box and had a short ‘service’ for him before gently placing him in a trash container.
Some days I regret giving up on him, but then I always remind myself that I gave him a burial of which he as deserving and saved him from being carelessly tossed into a trash bag.
(And Brad, when you read this, remember that it’s one less item for you to deal with when faced with my belongings upon my death. You’re welcome.)