OCTOBER 15, 1990: After the kids went to school that morning (did I drive carpool?), I went to KMart to buy siblings gifts for Yocheved and Ariel. As a prepared, pregnant mom, I’d have treats ready for them when they’d come visit me in the hospital with our new baby. Walking too slowly down the aisles of the store, I realized that labor had begun. With Eddie at my side, I went to the doctor soon after, and she sent us to walk around the neighborhood to get things moving. I remember walking from her office near Belvedere Square (in Baltimore) and stopping at the gas station on the corner….Gilad’s life was starting.
Sometime that afternoon we went to the hospital, and at 6:18pm a beautiful baby boy emerged, peeing on the doctor first (how characteristic was that?) and weighing 6 lbs, 11 oz. He was 9 days early, and my in-laws insisted I wasn’t due yet, even after he was born. My father was glad it was a pre-shkiah baby so that the bris would be early Mon morning and he could get back to his store to work. We were grateful to have another healthy child, and no one knew our secrets of fertility and whatnot, that it hadn’t come easy for us like the older two. The 5-year gap was significant and we’d waited years for this one to come along. Little did we know that early and late means nothing at all.
We discussed his name: I wanted Ra’anan and Eddie preferred Noach, but somehow we settled on Gilad. His name came to me early one morning and I called Eddie and we agreed that it fit. But it was such an unusual name that I had to whisper to myself that it wasn’t Gideon and it wasn’t Yigal, but it was Gilad! Gilad was our family’s baby and the kids loved playing with him and making him laugh. He was the smiley-est baby ever and people – even strangers – commented on that all the time. That was just the beginning of his charm.
And so it went…he turned 1, 2, 3, a toddler, and then we welcomed Ezra. Gilad was the age for school, starting at the JCC with his buddies-for-life: Ari, Adam, Ben, Eli, Eitan, Ariella, Sarah, Atara, Tzvi, Alex…. and the years passed so quickly, didn’t they? Before we knew it he graduated 8th grade, was playing guitar with the stance and talent of a rock star, and soon came high school and SATs and college prep.
But somewhere along the way something was brewing inside our dear, sweet boy, unbeknownst to us. He rode his bike to school one day, then davened as a ba’al tefillah, and almost collapsed. Who knew? He would do the Katz-boys-exercises at nite to prepare for basketball and he would be out of breath too soon for a kid his age. I took him for a chest-xray (nothing!) and then to the doctor for the unusual bags under his eyes. We talked about eating right (vegetables!) and sleeping more. Sure. Who knew? And the rest, well the rest we all know…
So he came into our lives feisty, adorable, sweet, stubborn, always knew what he wanted. He had music in his soul and a joke or tale to tell; he’d often be surrounded by friends, a noticeable presence in any room. And before we could turn around and enjoy the adult he was slowly becoming, he was gone, vanished. If matter can neither be created nor destroyed, how did he get here and where did he go?
Today, October 15, Gilad would have turned 23. But “would have” is pretend; they are fantasy words that don’t mean anything in this solid, rule-filled, often-cruel and painful world we live in. He was 19, and even today, he is still only 19 years old, while all his former playmates are now grown men and women, with stubble on their faces and paychecks in their pockets, or high-heels as they impress at work, or still in jeans and hoodies getting Masters degrees, becoming doctors, lawyers, business folk. They are getting married, and soon the babies will come. And Gilad will forever be 19.
As I carried Gilad 23 years ago until 6:18pm, I carry him today inside of my heart and my soul. I cannot hold the physicality as I did then, a small babe warming in my womb, but there is a heaviness in my chest that is Gilad, and he is with me forever and ever, until I meet him in the ground or sky one day.
I don’t know how it happened, the arrival or the exit, but I’m glad he was ours for a while. Gilad, Giladi, we miss you, we love you. Happy would-be Birthday? I don’t know. But Happy-that-you-spent-19-almost-20-years-with-us-Day. I loved being your mom, because being a mom is just the best, sweetest, most gratifying job in the world. Thanks for that, Gilad. Thanks for happening to us.