Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Isis writes about Teddy

I wrote this tonight after receiving the news about Teddy.

Death – it takes our breath away.  This is why I find myself standing completely motionless on the busy corner of 55th St and 6th Ave having just read in my iphone that Teddy, the caretaker of West Park Presbytarian passed.  It is a gut visceral reaction like having the wind knocked out of oneself.  It is a surreal moment – New York City whizzes by as the post 5pm rush home commences but I cannot move in this moment.   There is no air and a suspended sense of being between worlds hovers for a moment, the realm of grief and the passing of a soul colliding with the zag of New York reality. 

I met Teddy only on a handful of occasions over the past month during rehearsal with Theatre Group Dzieci.  He was a surly man, hard around the edges, smelled of Marlboro reds and from what I can tell had no problem drinking on the job.  My first meeting with him when our theatre group was rehearsing was laced with a string of obscenities as he called the police to escort one of the local crazies out of the church.  When I thanked him later for handling a challenging situation for us, he shrugged it off saying he had spent his fair share of time in mental wards and actually had a lot of compassion for people with mental illness. 

Teddy worked like an animal, hauling set pieces and dusty furniture around the church.  During our second meeting, I grabbed him in an embrace as my gyspsy character in Makbet and danced a few rounds with him singing in his ear as the rest of our company chanted and danced around. He proclaimed this the best moment of his life. 

On a subsequent visit to West Park, I rode my bike and parked it outside chaining it to the scaffolding while I spoke to Pastor Bob and we did some marketing for our upcoming performance of Fools Mass around the neighborhood.  I returned to my bike to find a napkin tucked in my bicycle basket with a drawing of To-To from The Wizard of Oz with XOXO scribbled on it – Teddy. During our show of Fools Mass he hauled a large wooden pew down a winding staircase doing the chivalrous man thing while I tended his rice for him that he was cooking on a hot plate.  Teddy and I took apart scaffolding and I told him about working HVAC with my father.  He offered me a pork rind from a bag of crispies he was eating.  Seeing we were short on audience members for a show, he offered to start making calls to bring in some warm bodies to fill out the pews. 

He spoke to all of us after our performance of Fools Mass saying he was deeply moved by the piece, especially the sermon.  The performance he mentioned had actually turned his whole day around and that he was reminded to be nice to people and that it was our responsibility to take care of one and other.  We stood in a final circle after Fools Mass, Teddy with us.  We sang ‘Amen’ together, gazed into each others eyes saying goodbye until after the holidays.  Teddy died of a heart attack on Christmas Eve.  Tonight Teddy all the Fools sing for you. 

Isis Phoenix is a shaman,a healer and member of Theatre Dzieci

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