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Saturday, October 27, 2012

My Ben Story


After the service we were talking and several people asked me why I didn't say anything when others were sharing stories. They figured I came all this way, I knew everyone there, and Belle is my god daughter. They all knew I am involved in these people's lives. I just couldn't pull it together. And Ray (April's dad) had a grip on my arm, he couldn't pull it together either. So here's MY story:

I moved to Florida 10 years ago with the plan that April would come down to live after she saved up for a couple years. We didn't talk often but didn't really need to, cause best friends are like that.

Then I got a phone call...

April: Hi, I'm pregnant.
Me: What? How pregnant? You had sex?
April: Don't sound so surprised!
Me: Who's the dad?
April: Ben Gallas
Me: Who the hell is Ben?
April: And I'm getting married.
Me: What? To who?
April: To Ben!
Me: Who the hell is Ben?
April: Well, now he's my fiance'
Me: Ok...
April: But I told him you have to approve of him first
Me: Poor Ben.
April: Here, talk to him
Ben: Hi. Will you let me marry April and be the maid of honor? Please like me. I'll be good, I promise.
Me: Of coarse I'll be there but if you mess this up I'll beat your ass.

A month later I'm in MI for a wedding...

April: THIS is BEN!!
Me: Hi, so we're really gonna do this?
Ben, with his head down, looking quite scared: I really love her, please like me. Do you like me?
Me, overwhelmed by his cuteness and giant pleading blue eyes: Yes, you'll do.
Ben: Oh thank God. I mean, I'm gonna marry her anyway but this will be easier if you approve.
Me: As long as you take care of her and the baby its all good.
Ben: That's good action! (Huh Huh)

A couple months later I get a phone call... 

Ben: You have to get here, NOW.
Me: What's up? Is April having the baby?
Ben: Yes, and I think she's mad at me.
Me: Why do you say that?
Ben: She is calling me really mean names and throwing things.
Me: What's going on now?
Ben: The nurse said something about crowning and pushing.
Me: Ben, Get the fuck off the phone!!

3 days later I'm in MI again...

Ben: I have a daughter. And she's little. I might break her.
Me: Babies are very resilient, you'll do fine.
Ben: Ok, Teach me. And you know you're the Godparents, right? 

I spent a week at their little house watching them become a family. The 3 of us would lay on the floor and stare at Annabelle's beautiful face. She was the smallest 5lbs 12oz little angel we had ever seen. Ben was glowing with pride. He carried her around the house. Took pictures, slept right next to her and proved that he was the best daddy Belle could have asked for. I was overwhelmed with the amount of love in that house. It was Venetian Festival in downtown St. Joe. Ben had a show on the bluff stage with his best friends, Bert and Brian. He announced to everyone there that he had a daughter and she was amazing. He loved that little girl so much!

Over the years...

We went back to visit for holidays. Logan and Belle were buddies. Loopy and Ben became good friends. They were both amazing guitar players and would sit out in the garage in Buchanan and record music together. One year we stopped on the way up and bought an acoustic guitar to leave in MI so they could play together. We had an old school "Friends Thanksgiving" dinner one year. We would all sit in the kitchen drinking coffee while the kids played together.The boys would laugh and shake their heads watching me and April talk a million miles an hour and finish echother's sentences, usually without actually talking. 

I got phone calls from either April or Ben when things were great and sometimes not so great. I was so sad when they got divorced. They really were made for eachother. But they had their reasons and I respected that. Ben continued to be an amazing dad. Annabelle worshiped the ground he walked on. The 3 of them still did things as a family and kept a good relationship even when Ben wasn't making the best choices. 

What do you mean "missing"?

On the very bad day when I found out he was missing I didn't want to believe it. Something was very wrong. I had known for months that something wasn't right because he stopped responding to me online. But NOW he really was missing. I got a picture of him circulating on facebook. I was in constant contact with April trying to piece it all together. My phone and message boxes were blowing up for 2 weeks straight with questions and people telling me when they saw him last or ideas of where people should go look. I even sent emails to RingLing Bros. every day because he mentioned joining the circus to help pay child support. 

The call...

April is a texter. Knowing that if my phone rings and her name pops up it would not be good, I didn't want to answer that call. I didn't want to know for sure that the search was over. It was April's mom Debbie. They found Ben dead on his mom's property holding a shot gun. My heart sank. I wanted to instantly be teleported to my best friend's side. The decision to wait here for the autopsy results and funeral arrangements was not an easy one. It was not a question of if I should go. Loopy said "you have to go. When do you leave?" 

Surreal weekend.

I thought that it would be more "Real" once I got there. Working on the picture boards, holding my now 7yr old god-daughter, listening to her stories about her dad, hearing 1st hand from the woman that found his body... Nothing seemed real. I had to stop often to remind myself that we were talking about BEN. The adorable young kid that begged me to 'let' him marry my best friend. The one that proudly introduced me to his daughter. Now I was sitting in this kitchen discussing his autopsy and funeral. I found myself in a room of friends and family remembering his life and mourning his death. It still isn't real. In my mind I think I separated the Benji I knew from the Ben who died. Someday I might put those two people together and it will be real. Me and April are both waiting for that day to come. I think it will suck.

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