By Kevin Watson (Teddy's Roommate & Great Friend)
People keep asking me “How are you?” I usually respond with, “I’m hanging in” or “Just taking it one breath at a time” or “I’m OK.” Most of those answers are true except one.
I’m not ok.
To be blunt, the best way to describe me is lonely. I’m really fucking lonely. Don’t get me wrong, I know I have people that love me and I have those people around me in abundance! So many amazing people have reached out in support. Many still check in regularly. And it’s been a blessing to be able to go through this grief with so many people who knew Ted and the light he beamed out constantly. We can share in what we miss. It’s not that I feel alone. I’m lonely.
Truth is, I was feeling lonely before Ted died. For whatever reason I’ve chosen that path in more ways than is obvious. I’ve never been in a relationship longer than 6 months. Why? Take your pick: my father’s death, high (irrational/quality) standards, being cheated on, self-sabatoge due to fear of commitment? I’d say it’s a combo of all these things but the one that keeps coming back to me, is having trouble willing to trust someone to completely love me. All of me. The shit. The shine. All of it. Or maybe that’s to say there’s a fear that no one actually could. Regardless of the reason, I’ve yet to find a lover that could be my best friend as well. Understand that I don’t regret my philosophy or course of action when it comes to such partnership. I chose that route for good reasons and I’m proud to say that I’ve never stayed with someone just to keep from being by myself. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t get lonely.
I’ve also chosen solitude in other endeavors as well. My passion for live music was fostered by going to bars and checking out music on my own. I basically flew solo at my first few music festivals, too, partly because I didn’t want to be slowed down by a group of friends but largely because my group of friends at the time weren’t into the music I like. I didn’t want to ask people to go do something they didn’t love just to keep me from being lonely. I remember very vividly the time I had the realization that I needed to be happy with who I was and I shouldn’t rely on others to make me feel that way. I guess these endeavors were some sort of exercise in those regards.
I still go eat dinner by myself, exercise by myself, and I definitely still go see music by myself. Fortunately, now I usually see plenty of friends from the scene. And while I genuinely call them “friends”, I know that there are different levels of friendship. The energy I get from their hugs and smiles and cheers are a big part of why I love live music. It’s not just the music, it’s the community. That being said, how many of those people truly know me? How many people knew that on top of Ted’s death, my nephew Bennett is sick? Or that I even have a nephew? Unfortunately, the music biz is filled with a lot of amazing people who don’t truly know you that well and vice versa.
And I have a beautiful, loving, supportive family back home in Oklahoma. We even have some ‘adopted’ families that are amazing as well. Sure, they know me and love me in ways that only family can. I’m so blessed to have a diverse family that loves each other unconditionally. But does that mean they really understand my conditions? Do I feel like any of them truly know what my life is like or understand who I am or why I act the way I do? I have to say no. I also understand that this is normal for most families. Does that make me less lonely? No.
These are just a few things that have left me feeling lonely on and off for years. Right now, though, I’m feeling waves of the most harrowing loneliness I may have ever known. Even worse than when my father died? Yes. Even worse than my suicidal depression of my teens? Yes. Why? Because I feel like at this point in my life, Ted not only UNDERSTOOD me and my character flaws and how I think and (over)analyze, and what makes me tick more than anyone else, HE LOVED ME FOR IT ALL! I can honestly say that the closest thing I’ve known to being both understood and accepted is gone. And it makes me fucking lonely.
This year I went to Burning Man for the first time. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a number of years. Ted had really pushed for me to go for a couple of years now. In 2013 I had planned on going so far as to have purchased a ticket. For a number of reasons it fell through. Teddy would always say, “The thing about going to Burning Man is you have to MAKE it happen! You can’t just think it will fall into place. You have to go do it.” Well, finally after a year of planning and saving, I made it happen. I didn’t camp with Ted’s crew for a few reasons, the biggest being that I would only know Ted and Sami and a couple others in a pretty large camp. I didn’t want to be Ted and Sami’s 3rd wheel the whole time, so I joined up with some other friends to form a small independent camp. I somehow didn’t realize though, that my core camp would consist of myself and 4 other couples. I went from 3rd wheel to 9th wheel! Ha! Don’t get me wrong, the people at my camp were and are outrageously amazing people and I made some great memories with them! But still everyone else had a wingman. I again was solo. And at first I was fine with it, as usual. I explored the vast desert city on my own, getting the lay of the land, finding some great adventures and meeting some interesting folks. By the third day though, all I wanted was to go find my roommates!!! And find them I did. Night after night.
A few different mantras or lessons just kept hammering away at me while I was there. One big one was, “Why would you choose to do these things on your own when you could share the experiences with others? Not to mention people you love!?” Hanging out with Ted and Sami and our great friend Nate didn’t just feel comfortable, it felt right. It was without insecurity or fear of judgment. There was no other place I would have rather been. (I also never felt like a 3rd wheel.) And while Sami and Nate are amazing friends, that confidence and comfort in those moments was a direct result of Ted’s friendship. It was a beautiful feeling. It felt like home.
Teddy had worked intently for a while on making me feel ‘at home’. I guess you could say we both worked on it together, but he insisted on it. I remember when we were preparing for my birthday in 2012. I had only lived in the house for around 4 months. I was nervous at first to ask Ted if I could have a large birthday dinner and then a party at the house. I never wanted to intrude on his world. Ted being Ted said, “A party!? Of course!!!” He didn’t know the majority of the people that would be attending yet he was happy to have them here. I remember inviting people and saying, “So we’re gonna have my birthday dinner up at Ted’s house then we’re gonna open it up to a big invite to whoever wants to come party. Do you have directions to Ted’s?” I can’t remember exactly how it came up. I think Ted heard me say something similar on the phone. I remember he cracked up about it though! “Why don’t you just tell everyone the party is at your house?”, he said with his sarcastic exaggerated tone. “I mean, this is your house isn’t it?” I replied saying that it wasn’t really my house, that he owned it. He insisted that I had ‘ownership’ in the house based on my actions: I made payments on the house (rent) and I took care of it like my own with maintenance and respect, so why would I not call it my house! It took me a long time to make the change from calling it ‘Ted’s house’ and even after everything I still have trouble calling it mine. I usually just refer to it as ‘the house’ or ‘our house’.
I came back from Burning Man feeling more at home than ever with Ted and Sami. There was an acceptance and appreciation for each other that reached farther than ever before. I came back feeling more comfortable in my own skin and in tune with who I am than I have in years. I remember joking with Ted about taking pride in the kind of men we are. “You are I gentle, compassionate, sensitive men! And if people have problems with it they can fuck off!!!” So gentle. So compassionate. Ha! Someone had recently asked me if I would ever consider moving to Denver. I told them that I think the only way I’d move out of ‘the house’ was when Sami and Ted got married and were starting a family. (Ted had told me to see this as my home until then, and had joked saying, “Who knows? Maybe we’ll need Uncle Kevin around then!”) I replied to my friend’s question that there obviously was a physical luxury that the house provided, but that’s just stuff. The biggest reason that I wouldn’t ever want to leave was the emotional and personal comfort that I found in my roommates. Honest communication. Understanding. Compassion. Acceptance. LOVE!!! Why would I ever go anywhere else!?
It’s beyond unfortunate why Sami and I are closer than ever before yet I’m so blessed by our friendship. I don’t know how I would be dealing with this without her. That being said, this home is shattered. Ted was her rock in a way I could never know! I guess I never really completely understood how much he was a rock for me. I feel like I never really took his friendship for granted; I have no regrets with how our friendship grew or where we were in it when he died. But that old cliché keeps popping up in my grief. “You never really know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
Now I know. Ted is gone. My brother is gone. And without him I’m lonelier than ever.