My mother's stepfather was named Ezra Gerald.
My mother's youngest brother – my uncle – is named Ezra Gerald.
His son – my cousin – is named the same.
My uncle Gerald has long been separated from my Little Gerald's mother.
By some odd stroke of coincidence, eleven years ago she and her new husband were stationed at the military base here. At the time Little Gerald was just seven years old. A cutie pie to the core, he had a peculiar blend of cheek-dimpled, little kid mischievousness and a somewhat quiet, polite maturity that seemed well beyond his small years. He and his little sister spent plenty of time with my mom, sisters, and me. Thirteen years his senior and just past twenty, I felt like more of an aunt than an older cousin to Little Gerald.
After only a year or so, Gerald and his family were reassigned to another duty station and moved away. For various shadowed reasons, we weren't kept in touch and ultimately lost the close contact with that extension of our family that we once had. We missed Gerald; he's the one cousin on my mother's side of the family that we didn't get to see grow up.
Gerald had his 18th birthday at the end of March.
He was killed last Friday, caught while riding his bike to school by a bullet that was meant for someone else.
Our side of Little Gerald's family is only now learning of this tragedy. We are devastated, shocked into a surreal state of near-disbelief.
He was more man than child, but I keep seeing him as the cherubic little sprite who used to wiggle his way into my lap and giggle with his never-ending, ear-to-ear grin.
We didn't really know him much past that cheeky seven-year old. We didn't know him as the cornerback of his high school football team or as the senior superlative class clown. As the young man who was looking forward to taking his girlfriend to the prom, she with her coordinating dress already hanging in wait in her closet. We didn't get to know him as the scholar just six weeks away from graduation and headed to Kentucky State University in the fall.
We won't get to know him at all, not past the memories we keep of him in our hearts.
I just don't understand.