Friday, January 1, 2010

My "Dad" - Erik Gates

I've waited to put down my thoughts... for a few reasons. I think anything I could write would make my mom cry and I don't want to do that. But also the grief is still fresh for me. I'll start at the beginning and try not to ramble too much.

When my mom began dating Erik I was against it. She had started dating following her divorce from my dad. First of all, I was happy they were getting a divorce. They weren't happy together. You don't want your parents to not be happy. So they separated and for awhile my mom was perfectly content with being single. She slowly started dating and went through the crap that guys can put you through. One of the guys made her really unhappy and again... I don't want to see that. So when she met Erik and was full steam ahead... I was against it. I held my ground for 4 months. I stand by my decision! But I decided to call my mom up and agree to dinner after it was clear this guy wasn't going away. I set the ground rules that we would meet at a neutral meeting place of my choosing (Cho Cho San) and I would bring my friend Kelly. Following the dinner, I guess I determined he was good enough for my mom and gave my blessing on the relationship (haha).

From that point on, I was willing to get to know the crazy guy named Erik. He was smart, funny, and could take it as much as he could dish it out. Most of all, he became my dad. My actual father was never much of a dad. He was very into himself. If he was unhappy, everyone had to be unhappy. A few years later I would end contact with him - wishing him well and hoping he is happy with his new family - but letting go of the relationship because it was not worth it anymore. I was "grown". I certainly did not need some guy becoming my dad. Erik stepped into that role without being pushy. He was respectful of me. He respected that I was "grown" and probably didn't need it... but he was there. I could call him and bounce ideas off of him and get help when I needed it. The typical cliche... he became the father I never had. I only wish he had entered our lives earlier. We were extremely lucky to have him for the time we did.

When I moved to Florida, he helped where he could... When I moved back from Florida he was the first one to offer to come out there and drive me back. He paid to get my boxes shipped back... he genuinely cared how I was doing. I was happy to be back in his presence. With my actual dad, his loved seemed to be measured by how much money he had. He was happy when he had a lot and he was extremely unhappy when he had none. Erik's love didn't measure against money. He wanted to provide for my mom and his family but the love was constant. He could make anyone laugh and have a conversation with anyone. He was absolutely hilarious... My mom's house has cameras you can check on a website. I was on the site to show Ian her house. I called my mom and told her we were looking and Erik told us to look at a specific camera. When I clicked onto it, he was there mooning us. That was Ian's first introduction to Erik. Too funny.

Erik helped Ian and I pace ourselves with the move across the United States. He called for updates... made sure we were stopping often, etc. He tracked our progress and supported my mom through it all. I'm so very grateful that he came up in September to see where I live and check how things were going. He got to meet Ian's parents and see the place we were going to get married. I'm so happy that worked out... we met them in Niagara Falls, had a nice lunch and got some pictures (unfortunately I don't have nearly enough pictures of Erik and I... he was always the one behind the camera!). We led them back to our place and spent the night. Then we drove back down to Kamber's house for Cooper's first birthday.

I'm going through a lot of emotions right now. I think I'm still in shock of course... but I'm kind of angry. I'm pissed that Erik doesn't not get to see Cooper grow up more. He was head over heels in love with his grandson Cooper. He told everyone he met that Kamber was expecting again. I'm upset that Ian and I didn't have kids for Erik to meet. He was so great with Cooper... It just sucks. Plain and simple.

The trip out here has made me realize a few things. Erik was loved so completely by a ton of people. His service was attended by over 200. He lived 5 lifetimes more than anyone else. But most of all, he lived the cliche - every day was lived like it was his last. After breaking his neck, getting and surviving cancer and every other injury he had, he KNEW life is short. Because he knew it, he refused to spend one day unhappy. Clearly it makes a lot of people evaluate their lives. Erik's brother Dirk spoke at length during Erik's service. One of his points was the need to find balance in our lives. The balance between work and living your life. Erik was able to easily find that balance. Ian and I are still figuring that one out.

Another thing I discovered while being out here. I realized how much I love Ian. I wasn't sure if he would come out with me... he would miss Christmas and all... but to him there was no question he would come out. He has been so supportive. When I couldn't sleep he would just chat away about Major League Baseball rumors. He even needed an emergency root canal while we are here and still kept up a good mood. I appreciate him more because I know good guys like him and Erik are rare. We are getting married 3 weeks and, although it will be hard, I'm really looking forward to it.

I'm comforting myself with certain thoughts... He's probably jumping off buildings and bridges that would have been illegal while he was here. Launching monster rockets... kicking back in Mexico, drinking as many Long Island Iced Teas as he wants and soaking up the sun... He can now watch over his whole family regardless of where we live - especially his 3 children. Jessica, Ashley and David are all in good places right now. I hope that they stay on their current paths. It is shocking that he is gone... I miss him so much, everyone does... but I know that he would be so pissed at us if we waste the time we have been given. He used his lifetime to the fullest - if that makes sense. I love him as if we were my real dad... and to honor him and his impact on me, I'm going to make sure I use the time I have to the fullest. Or try really, really hard. The man left one hell of a legacy. Google "Erik Gates" and read for hours about him... the tributes... the pictures... again, he lived 5 lifetimes or more than anyone else.

The following is a Led Zeppelin song... He *loved* classic rock and this reminds me of him.

"An inspiration is what you are to me, inspiration, look... see..."

video

I love you Erik. Thank you for filling in the dad role for me. I miss you so much and hope to make you proud.

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