"I know the real reason you come to Paducah. It's because this is where the Quilting Mother Ship lands and you're secretly hoping that on one of your visits, they'll suck you up there to be with them. You're just using me as a clever cover for your true intentions."
He always said this with a twitch to the corner of a mouth that was always quick to smile. Charming part of the time, and down right 'okay what in the hell you got up your sleeve now'? the other part.
Even for living most of his life in Paducah, he had never been to the National Quilt Museum. Oh, that was just flat out wrong. Somehow I managed to get him there twice in six months. He was amazed, really. I remember watching him as he walked through the museum. I even caught him carefully studying a few of the pieces more closely, and one particular piece featuring the American flag left him speechless. He remarked afterward how he never would have thought that a quilt could look like a painting.
He also humored me with a birthday trip to Hancock Fabrics. Trust that you've never seen anything that might leave your brow to quirk quicker than a 6'5 mountain of a man with hair down to his ass pushing this itty bitty shopping cart behind an ooh-ing and ahh-ing woman as she flipped through bolt after bolt of fabric. Patiently pushing that cart with nary a grumble.
"The things we do for love, yeah?" his only comment as the cart was slowly filled up and we made our way to the checkout. Well, after a not-so-quick stop by the sale bin which I somehow missed on our way in.
Now, the Mother Ship story was ever-evolving. He was a storyteller, after all.
He had even come up with the basic plot for a cheesy B Movie.
There was a secret language that he was sure he heard me mumbling in my sleep. Complete with clicks and clucks of the tongue, He was even sure there was a certain amount of telepathy involved, and that I would find a way to melt his brain and sew it back together again to suit my needs. He thought that one morning he would wake up with his brain made softer than the cotton batting inside of a quilt. Somehow I would make him my quilting minion.
Every time we would spot some strange light in the sky, I would find a big elbow cast into my ribs or arm and he would motion for me to look--
because, you see, the Mother Ship had found me.
"Well." I would finally respond after the laughter would subside. "I don't know if it's me they've got their radar on now. You've been to the quilt museum twice and been shopping for batiks. Not just plain cotton fabric, but batiks. It's a done deal. It's your ass they're looking for now."
Big shoulders would give a slow rolled shrug, and that devil may care grin would slide to his face before he would pop off...
"Not worried about it, baby. They'll never let me on board. I don't know the secret handshake."
I never got the chance to teach him that handshake. But that's okay. Seems he found a better ride.
Ted left this existence on December 5, 2014, passing peacefully in his sleep sometime in the early morning hours. A numbing shock, and I will struggle with the grief of it all for a long time to come. We had an easy kind of love, filled up with equal parts of laughter and quiet and calm. I miss him terribly.
It does feel good to remember. For all his teasing, he was one of the biggest supporters of my work. Always curious about what I was doing. Genuinely. He helped me focus. He inspired me.
He could never remember the difference between knitting and crocheting.
"Which do you do?"
"I crochet. See? Hook."
"Oh, yeah you're my hooker."
We always thought his learning to cross stitch with those huge hands of his would have been worth a laugh or three. Especially if we'd gotten into the Wild Turkey while he tried to learn. (Which is what it would have taken for him to try!) We would have been frogging. A lot. I find a huge smile when I imagine him sitting with needle in one hand, thread in the other, wetting the end of the floss and trying to shove it through the eye of the needle.
Just this last October when I visited, we decided that it might be best that I just employ him as my bodyguard at upcoming trade shows. Yeah, because every cross stitch designer needs a bodyguard. Dangerous work we do, ya know. But I did look forward to his coming with me to shows in the future, mostly because I knew that he appreciated what I do, and what others in the industry were doing. I really think I opened his eyes to the 'art' of it all.
My dream has always been to make my art my career. To cross from 'nice part time hobby' into something bigger. Ted encouraged me to pursue that dream. He still does.
I just have to quiet myself and listen for that 'you can do it, woman. you always could.'
I love you, Ted.