People appear into out lives for various reasons. Some pop in just for a short while, while others stay for the long hall. Many only come to teach us a lesson, but only a few appear to fundamentally change your life.
He is that person for me.
Just a few years ago, a sudden, carefree encounter, with zero expectations from either side, but only the hope for… meaning. I fell in love with him the moment I first heard his voice. A deep, surround sound like tone, full of confidence but also vulnerability.
Our first kiss, only an hour after our eyes first met. Our first home, 3 month after that. The exchange of vows 9 months later, just a few weeks before our first daughter came into this world. It took me 33 years to find him, 5 minutes to fall in love, 1 year to start a family with him, and 2 and a half years to realize how lucky I am.
The other day, as he returned home from a 24, he was sharing some of the details behind the events that took place the night before in Brooklyn. A fire, first story apartment building, spreading into the second. As he kept going, explaining what he had to do in the situation, I couldn’t help but to think about a time many years ago when I burned a turkey in the oven in my apartment building. I vividly recalled for a moment the feeling of complete silence piercing through my ears, with a high pitch noise that was accompanied by my heart beating at the speed of light. Time was in slow motion, and my face was producing sweat like the falls of Niagara.
A moment later, I came back to our conversation and realized how incredibly brave a human being has to be, to stand in front of a fire of any kind, knowing that it is their responsibility to put it out. The self composure and powerful consciousness he needs to maintain to do what he does in the field knowing that lives are at stake, left me speechless. I humbly realized, that I was sitting next to greatness. He is brave.
Our lives could not have been more different growing up. But the moment we came together, we infused our differences into something new. My experience of life up until the moment we met was about survival, which often came by doing harm to others to get what I needed. He on the other hand, came from a diverse background, where life over the past decade was about the FDNY family of brotherhood. For him, honesty is everything. He made me realize that life is too short to hold grudges or play games. He always does what is right. Not what is expected of him, but what is the best possible path to take to not only defuse the situation but turn it into something positive. He is honest.
This is a man who runs into fires, not just for the residents, but for the firefighters who may or may not need the help sometimes. He is the quiet shadow that watches over the men on the ground in the worst of situations. The person who steps in only when danger is way too close. The person who dives deep only when plan A is collapsing.
Most of the time he comes back home from work happy and physically feeling strong. But sometimes, he comes back home emotionally and physically destroyed.
This is a man who deserves to be celebrated. He is hard working.
His brothers are his second family. Although up until very recently, they were his first. I can only imagine how much you need to know and trust another human being in order for you to perform the activities you do as a New York City Firefighter. These are the men who answer all the calls, and go towards the places that others run away from. He will do anything for his brothers. He will give them the clothes off of his back, the keys to his castle and for many, he will even cut off his left pinky. The love that he shares for his brothers is unlike any love I have ever seen anywhere else. He is loyal.
He is an emotional powerhouse of strength and heart, spreading his positive and joyful energy to all around him. The first day he met my mother he made her punch him, karate style. Way too many drinks may have been involved, but he certainly made an impression. This situation took place because my mother simply said that she has never really “punched anyone”. So he quickly rushed to present her with the opportunity to do so.
Every year he is involved with events and gatherings that matter to him, personally. He wants to give back every chance that he gets. As if he is not already doing enough, by being a New York City Firefighter.
His daughter is his world. The way he loves her, is poetic. Watching him adore her every day, erases the empty placeholder space I always hoped my father would fill. Watching him love her, makes me whole. He has a big heart.
His soul is always on an adventure, trying hard to follow the thoughts around his adventures mind. One of our first dates entailed us going to see an active performance in NYC of a show that took place in a hotel of a 5 story building. Many dark rooms, scenes taking place all around us, actors and audience running around to find the sequence to a story that is supposed to make sense. Silence was mandatory, and masks covered our faces. All I saw was your hand holding mine and pulling me through each room into the next scene. You grabbed my hand that night and led me into the next phase of our lives. Parenthood. A journey we just begun, but one we are taking together each day.
Every moment of our lives over the past few years has been an incredible adventure, and you keep leading us forward into the life I only hoped to have. He is adventures.
One of a kind.
He is an inspiration. A man I look up to. One that finishes my sentences, and holds my hand when I am scared. The voice I look forward to speaking with every moment of every day. The eyes I look forward to seeing when the days come to an end, and new ones begin. The laugh I crave hearing when the world seems gray. The arms I miss when his duty calls him away.
He is a man who takes care of his community, and his family at home. Like no other humans. A man who loves fully, and gives himself to his job 1000%. He is one of a kind.
My husband, Benjamin Jacob Gelker. A New York City Firefighter.