The love story of Mike and Moriah

Mike wasn’t much for crying – his theory was to walk it off.

But the second he laid eyes on Moriah, one of the great loves of his life, there was nothing but tears of happiness.

He’d waited a long time to meet her . . . 20 years to be exact. He and Tammi patiently waited for God to choose their child and when Moriah’s soul was channeled to this earth, they reciprocated by choosing her to be their daughter.

He drove at a snail’s pace during Moriah’s first car ride and stared at her non-stop that first night, earnestly listening to every little breath. And many an early morning, Tammi found the two of them nestled into a chair, sound asleep – with Mike’s work-worn hands wrapped around her and Moriah’s cheek resting on his heart.

This was the beginning of the love story of Mike and Moriah.

Moriah’s certainly never been an only child. As soon as she could walk, Mike embraced his toddler side. They’d prance around the room with him on all fours and her exploding with laughter as she sat on his back, her tiny fingers digging into his Husker shirt.

Mike was a master at creating blanket tents around the kitchen table where stories were told and quiet times were held.

As soon as Moriah could talk and form questions, there was a specific inquiry into Mike’s habits. Her first real wonderment about the world was, “Why does Daddy yell at the TV?” Tammi quickly explained that “Daddy thinks they can hear him. It’s fine. We just pretend they can.” Yes, Mike was compelled to yell at anyone he disagreed with on television – sports commentators, athletes, referees, newscasters and even the weather guy.

“Boy, he had opinions,” says Moriah with a laugh. “He had stuff to say . . . and everybody could hear it.”

Through it, she learned to speak her mind, a gift early on that will continue to be an asset.

The love story of Mike and Moriah continued.

What a team the Eikenhorsts became.

Sweet Pea, as Mike lovingly called his young side-kick, quickly learned that her dad was quite the dancer. Anywhere, anytime, he would just bust a move involving snappy fingers and unique shoulder rolls, with a little gyration when his cumbersome hips would allow.

And his singing . . . or humming . . . what a musical extravaganza. His shining vocal pieces were mostly songs he had recently heard on the radio – sometimes he got stuck on REO Speedwagon tracks. And sometimes they were lyrical concoctions he created.

Was he a good dancer? Moriah says HE thought he was.

Was he a good singer? Moriah says HE thought he was.

“That’s all that mattered,” she says, “because it meant he was happy.”

And the love story between Mike and Moriah evolved as she grew older.

Soon, her little hands that once held toys now held softballs, basketballs, volleyballs, bats and more sporting equipment. Mike loved kids, he loved sports and he was intensely passionate about promoting potential in everyone through the avenue of athletics.

He was dedicated to being a coach for Moriah’s sports teams, even though he was a very busy man doing concrete work.

“Right before practice, he’d show up, still wearing his tool belt, knee pads and he was covered in cement,” she remembers. “Kids even started just calling him Bob – Bob the Builder – because he’d show up being the construction worker and end up being the coach. I loved that. He worked so hard to take care of me and my mom, and he still showed up to support me and my friends. He had to be tired, but he didn’t care. I guess we were just that important to him.”

Dedication is a recurring theme in the love story of Mike and Moriah.

Mike loved food and his fledgling foodie enjoyed the art of eating.

They had daily dietary routines.

“We loved to go to Jerry Wilkinson’s food truck in the morning before school, down on the north side of town, and get breakfast,” Moriah recalls. “Dad got biscuits and gravy, I got a breakfast burrito. It was so much fun.”

They’d eat in the pickup and talk about the day ahead. That time was precious and important, even if they thought it was just an ordinary part of their day.

And when it came to the evening meal, well, Mike took control. He loved to cook, he loved to grill, he loved to create anything with meat – mostly chicken – and he loved to serve his family.

Tammi and Moriah said he was quite accomplished at the Eikenhorst Bistro.

“We tried to help, but he always just took over,” Moriah says. “We’d offer to cook, but we just became the eaters.”

And dang it, now neither one know how to use the grill, they laugh.

“But it was his hobby,” they say. “I guess we were his hobby too.”

Even though he was the cuisine expert, he wasn’t above doing the dishes, which Moriah says was always followed by a nap on the couch in front of the TV – a nap, if yelling at the televised production wasn’t required.

And then, after a time . . . according to Sweet Pea . . . Mike would awake and embark on a nighttime snack. His preference? Macaroni in hot milk with butter, salt and pepper.

“I don’t know,” Moriah says with a roll of her eyes and a shake of his head. “That was his thing. We learned to save cold, leftover macaroni for that. It’s weird . . . but it wasn’t weird because he did it.”

Moriah doesn’t love to eat that macaroni, but she loved that he did.

There were so many nuances to the love story of Mike and Moriah.

As she grew older, Moriah started to realize even more how special Mike was.

“He worked so hard, so hard, and yet anytime, anytime, our song was played on the radio . . .” Well, it was celebrated.

Their song is “Chicken Fried.” It’s a song they’ve sung and to which they’ve danced together for many years. They’d crank up the volume if they were together . . . and when they weren’t, Mike made sure to call Moriah to tell her to turn on the radio so they could share the moment.

She’s happy they have a song.

It’ll be their song forever.

It’s the theme song for the love story of Mike and Moriah.

Moriah, now newly 13, says she loved that her dad found his dream job as maintenance director and custodian at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church and Emmanuel-Faith School.

“He loved being here, he loved me, he loved the kids here, he loved his church,” Moriah says.

And they loved him, too.

Kids gathered in the mornings as he greeted them. They called him Mr. Mike, Cupcake and Mac’N’Cheese.

He called them Superman, Smiley . . . oh, and the kindergartners were termed as Mini Cupcakes.

“It was so fun to have him here,” Moriah says softly.

She found it cool that she could hear his distinct voice in the hallway.

She always knew he was there for her and all her friends.

“What a softie,” Moriah whispered. “Such a soft heart with a big voice.”

A hard worker with a tender heart.

A young lady with admiration for a man she now realized had a lot of fans, in addition to her.

As they grew older, they both learned more about the other . . . in the love story of Mike and Moriah.

Mike has now transitioned to heaven, but his life goes on here in the life of his daughter.

Every time she steps onto a volleyball or basketball court or softball field, she will remember his cheers.

Every time she boils macaroni, she will smile.

Every time she thinks she likes a boy, she will compare his character and work ethic to that of her daddy.

When she gets married, she will somehow feel his hand on her arm.

And when she has children, she will tell them about the greatest man she ever knew.

That’s because the love story of Mike and Moriah will never end.




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