Each member of the family remembers Chris Reyka in his or her own way.
“Maybe there’ll be an award ceremony or something, and I will think, `My dad would be proud of me,’ ” Spencer Reyka said. “Or I’ll see a squirrel. My dad always loved squirrels, and we’ll say, `That’s Dad, looking down on us.’ When I’m really stressed, when I have way too much on my plate, those are the times I go to him, even in spirit, just to have support.”
Reyka also has been incorporated into the lives of his 2-year-old namesakes.
“Christopher cannot stand thunder, so we tell him, `Pa is bowling,’ “ Steele said. A stick-figure portrait, which Autumn Reyka helped the Christophers create, shows several members of the family with a winged Grandpa Chris hovering over blue crayon clouds.
She takes her son to his grandfather’s grave at the South Florida National Cemetery west of Lantana. Autumn Reyka points to the sky and Christopher touches the tombstone.
“That’s Papa,” he can say.
She has two kinds of dreams about her father.
“My dad will pop up and he’ll seem so real; then I’ll wake up.”
In the other dream, “the people who did it, they appear in my nightmares,” she said. “It scares the hell out of me.”
What will Sean Reyka tell his son about Papa, when the time comes?
“I will tell him, `Your grandfather would never compromise his integrity or honor. No matter what your problem, you could be honest and straightforward with him. The biggest punishment was if he was disappointed; then you truly felt horrible.’ ”
As for Kim Reyka, some days are better than others.
“She’s done a better job than anybody I could possibly know in that situation,” Steele said of her mother. “She had a hard time understanding that she can’t be both parents, that she couldn’t take my dad’s role.”
“I always said I would never want to be a single mom,” Kim Reyka said. A cloud of sadness touched her expression, then passed. “I’m still in that take-care-of-my-family mode, which I’m OK with. I figure it out as I go along.”
In answer to the natural question anyone would ask if struck suddenly and inexplicably, as their family was, she replied: “God didn’t do this to us. God is there to help you pick up the pieces and move on with your life.”