When I wrote the tribute to my dad in February, never in my worst nightmares did I think I would be doing the same less than two months later for my wife Geri. As all of you know, she passed away suddenly on March 19. Nothing I can say here is going to come close to recognizing her for all of the amazing things she did, but I’m going to try.
I met Geri in the fall of 1988 in Topeka, KS as we were working for competing video stores. She was a manager for Video Trend while I was a manager for Duncan’s Movie Magic. Long before the days of Hollywood Video and Blockbuster, the video industry survived through the locally owned stores. She worked for the laid back owners who thought it was cool she was dating someone from the competition. My owners were the opposite, absolutely sure that Geri was a spy trying to get video secrets out of me. I was told that I could not date her, so I did the most logical thing I could do. I quit, leaving two days before Christmas so I could spend time with my family before returning to Topeka and, unknowingly, beginning the rest of my life with the woman I loved.
I say unknowingly but, truth be told, I knew she was “the one”. Geri didn’t fall for my cheesy lines, those tricks that worked on all of the ladies. I knew I had to marry her and we would eventually do just that. She followed me down to Paris…Texas that it is…in 1989. It was there where we got married on June 1, 1990, before eventually returning to Kansas in 1991. All of the usual life events happened. Our daughter Kayla was born on May 30, 1992, followed later that year by our first house. Our son Joey was born on Feb. 9, 1994. Our second house came years later in 2002, by which time we both were entrenched in parenthood.
I was always the fun and laidback dad. The one who stayed in Geri’s shadow as she made sure shit got done. Whether it was scorekeeping at baseball, organizing the madness known as marching band and color guard, running the scoreboard at hockey or simply being the walking pharmacy with her never ending supply of new purses, Geri had it covered. I was the silent support. It was a system that worked the best for the both of us. I hated it sometimes as I felt Geri did too much, worked too hard. Yet, capturing the lightning that was Geri was impossible. If she slowed down, which was rarely, you knew she was either beyond tired or sick. That lasted all of a minute before she got back into the ring for the next round. Geri was a rock star. She was an amazing mom for her kids, not to mention countless others, both young and old.
When Geri was diagnosed with cancer nearly two years ago, she gave into it for a minute before she put those big girl panties on and started to fight. The first chemo lasted August to December in 2014, of which she missed all of two days of work. A double mastectomy in January 2015 only kept her down for a few weeks. Intense radiation from January to March 2015 was handled over lunch. More chemo from January to May resulted in no work days missed. She had a list of goals and nothing was going to stop her. I recently found a list that ended with January 2016. She met every one of them, including seeing our daughter Kayla marry the love of her life, Drew. Unfortunately, her last goal, seeing Joey play in Nationals in Cedar Rapids, was one she couldn’t make physically. However, she was there, from the random playing of “Sweet Caroline” on the speakers before game 3 to the sighting of a ladybug in my room before game 2, her presence was definitely felt.
Despite the last two years of endless doctor visits and all of the crap that came with it, they were really the two best years of our marriage. After all those years of the usual stupid arguments married people have, we finally understood it. We loved each other more in the last two years than many married people do in a lifetime. For that, I am forever blessed. From watching television shows at night to going to movies (Deadpool was the last we saw together and yes, she liked it) to her grumbling about my carb free diet, we were a team and the love we shared is something I wish for every married couple out there.
I lost my best friend on March 19 and it sucks. I find myself a single dad at the age of 48. To say it scares the shit out of me would be the understatement of the year. But, I have the most amazing support family that have made the last three weeks better than I ever imagined they could be. I’ve been told that now is the time for me to step out of the shadows and move forward as Geri would have wanted me to. I have to rediscover who I am. The last time I was single was 1988 and that Rich is long gone…thank God!
What I do know is that this blog will continue. Geri secretly loved going to conventions and watching movies. She certainly had her limits but she always supported me in my passions and I’m going to miss that more than anything. It would be too easy to dig a hole and disappear but that isn’t going to happen. So, I move forward in her honor, hoping to bring some happiness to those around me, trying to make this world a little better. I can’t even begin to be the person she was, so I’m going to be best person I can be.