Sometimes you just have to write…

Remembering Erik

erik0001I think any of you who are expatriates, or live any distance from where you grew up, can understand me when I say that you can still care about someone you haven’t seen in years, even decades.

Someone I cared about died this past spring, and I didn’t hear about it till a few days ago. So I guess you couldn’t say we were close anymore, but I cared.

When I was a kid, Erik Marks’s family and my family were close, so in a way we grew up together. Our two families didn’t live very nearby, so we didn’t see each other every day, like siblings would, but our two families got together for all the important occasions: Thanksgiving and Passover, for example.They were part of the background of my life as a child, like the holidays themselves.

The reason our families were close went back a long way. My grandmother and Erik’s grandmother had been friends since they were young women during the Depression. My mother and Erik’s mother, Elaine, were best friends from childhood. The whole family was like the cousins you don’t see much but who are treated like family rather than like guests.

Erik and his sister, Rebecca, were closer in age to me than any of my actual cousins, so as children we could play together as I imagine cousins often do.

The last time I saw Erik was years ago, before I moved to the Netherlands. As adults, once we’d moved out of our parents’ home, we went our own way, and generally only saw each other at occasional Thanksgivings or Passovers, when we happened to be around for those events.

I looked through a pile of old photos just a few weeks ago and came upon a picture of Erik on a sailboat with my sister, who stayed in touch with him into adulthood in a way that I did not. I remember thinking “I wonder how Erik’s doing. I’ll have to get back in touch with the Markses.” He had already died by then. I just didn’t know. And with the busy-ness of my everyday life, I never got around to asking after him either (photo added August 29, 2013).

I remember Erik primarily as very intelligent and disarmingly charming and witty. Conversing with him as a teenager was intimidating:  a challenge because of his dry, quick sense of humor. He was a good person, a good soul, with kind eyes.

I’m told he died of one of those out-of-the-blue causes that makes you think about your life: a cerebral hemorrhage. I’m glad he didn’t suffer.

I will miss him. The people you care about, but never see, still have a place in your life. Erik had a place in mine, now empty, and I’ll miss him. And my heart goes out to his parents and sister. 

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This entry was posted on August 8, 2013 by in Family and tagged , .
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