I have been riding the M104 to the office for the last 9 years and way back then every morning I would get on and sit near this handsome older man with a thick white neatly trimmed Afro.
New Yorkers can live for entire lifetimes in one apartment and never meet their neighbors.
You can pass the same people on the street day after day without ever saying hello or for the matter making eye contact. Its just how it is.
I am not sure how it started but that older gentleman and I began smiling at one another and after a year or so we moved to the good morning stage. Then about 2 yrs ago we began sitting next to one another and chatting.
I got to know Teddy pretty well before I met Lorraine.
Lorraine took the M104 on Mondays to go swimming at the Y. I catch the 7:10 bus and so did she but not by choice, she always tried to catch the earlier bus but somehow never did. We, too, took a long time before we spoke, I am not sure what made us connect but it might have been the morning the bus pulled up and I insisted she precede me onto the bus (there's this thing we New Yorkers do, we wait for buses but dont actually queue up, we just stand there but we always know who was there first ...) even tho I was there when she arrived. That morning Teddy was sitting toward the front of the bus in one of the single seats and she saw him and stopped to talk .. I continued to the back to my 'usual' seat.
The next time I saw her she told me how she and Teddy had known each other since she was 18, over 50 years,she said. She filled me in on Teddy's background, his wives, his daughters; how they both took swimming at the Y, exercised there.
After that morning whenever Lorraine was at the bus stop I knew I would be riding alone. I enjoyed them both, two of the youngest senior citizens I ever met.
About a year ago Teddy said his back ached and he was seeing a doctor who advised PT to help stretch muscles to ease the ache. But the ache continued and got worse. I listened and I worried, it didnt sound good to me but Teddy's wife was a PhD which made her the one in charge of talking to the doctors, he told me she was tough and wouldnt let them get away with anything.
After weeks of doctor visits, talk of arthritis, he finally got an appointment for an MRI and the news wasnt good: bone cancer.
I saw him 2 or 3 times after that before the weather got really bad and I assumed he stopped exercising due to the snow and was likely getting chemo treatments.
Then about a month ago I saw Lorraine at the bus stop. As I walked closer and could see her face clearly, I knew she was going to give me bad news.
I was right. She said Teddy had passed the week before. She'd seen him a month before that for the last time at a get-together of the Y seniors and he asked her to tell 'the white haired lady' what was happening. She was quite sad and we sat together til she got off at 66th Street she repeated stories she'd told me in the past and I listened as if for the first time. When she stood to get off I got up and we hugged. We'd both lost something but her loss far out classed mine.
Rest in peace, Teddy, it was a privilege to know you.