Adi Gildor was my best friend. He died last week. I still can’t believe it, but this is what I said at his memorial service:
I know I’m not the only person here who thought of Adi as their best friend. He was that kind of guy. We grew up together. We were still growing up together and we were supposed to grow old together. I gave the best man toast at his wedding, but I never ever thought I would be up here speaking today.
I can’t tell you how many times Adi called me over the last few years and said “We should go back to Moab to go mountain biking again” or “Let’s road trip to Mexico again,” and I would say “Definitely, but not yet.” Just like Adi, I’ve got two little kids, but my wife isn’t as cool with me going off on adventures without her as Rose was. We won’t get to do those things together now, but at least we did them the first time.
Adi and I met when we were in high school. We were just a couple of nerdy teenagers who thought we knew more than we actually did. Adi taught me how to curse in Spanish, how to appreciate Shakespeare, and how to recognize the hot peppers in Thai food. That last one, he taught me only after I ate one. He thought it was hilarious. We learned together how to avoid getting stuffed into lockers by the football players. And then we both grew four inches in college and didn’t have to worry about that sort of thing anymore.
There were things about Adi that never changed over the years.
He was the most generous guy I knew. He would literally give you the shirt off his back. One of my favorite shirts is one that Adi left at my house a few years ago. When I said I liked it he told me I should keep it. It was brown and a little shiny and had snaps. Rose remembers it. He would send me shoes and jackets too. We even had an ugly t-shirt club where we would send each other shirts and dare each other to wear them. I think I still have a My Little Pony shirt he sent me.
Adi knew how to have a good time. We went snorkeling in the South Pacific in a tiny country called Palau. We hiked and camped all over the 4 corners. We even bike-packed in Baja California where we drove on some of the worst roads you’ll ever see in my Honda CRX. It was never the same after that trip. I mostly stopped doing these adventures with him when kids were born, but he certainly didn’t stop!
You always knew where you stood with Adi. When he was mad, he would say I’m mad at you. And he would tell you why. Sometimes it was reasonable: I called you a week ago; Why haven’t you called me back? Sometimes it wasn’t: I told you to watch that movie a week ago; Why haven’t you watched it yet?
And he always had a keen sense of justice. I remember one time he was living in Colorado Springs walking his dog Eloise late at night. Some guys drove real fast right by them and Adi ran after them yelling. The car stopped and three of them got out of the car to ask if he had a problem. The guy talking was a lot bigger than Adi, so Adi hit him first. When he went down, the guy’s two “friends” took off. After giving the guy a pretty hard time, Adi felt sorry for him and I’m pretty sure Adi ended up giving him a ride home.
When Adi realized that the artsy Colorado Springs movie theater only gave student discounts to students at four year colleges, he wrote a letter about it to the local newspaper. And just a couple months ago he told me about confronting a couple guys at his gym who had the nerve to be drinking smoothies in the hot tub.
Adi would listen to advice, but at the end of the day, Adi followed his heart. Well after he finished college, he enlisted in the army and went through boot camp. Then he got tired of living in Massachusetts and moved to Colorado Springs. Why? He liked the high desert, the cheap living, and the great hiking, biking, and snowboarding. And it had a very good public library.
Adi figured out what he wanted and just did it. The best example of all is that he married the woman he loved. Sure, she was a lot younger than him. Sure, she wasn’t Jewish. He didn’t care. He loved her so he married her.
I never thought I’d see Adi “settle down”, but he did and he did it on his own terms. He grew up, he took responsibility, but he never stopped having fun. He had two kids, but they only made his life more fun. When I talked to him last week he told me about how had been running in the woods with Henry. They would play crazy make-believe games and when Henry got tired, Adi would put him on his back and run around some more.
Adi never cared about stuff. He cared about his friends, his family, and his lived experience. He loved doing stuff. Snowboarding, hanging out with people, arguing about ideas, making plans, reading. That’s why the way he died is so shocking. He loved living.
In my heart I believe that what happened that night was an aberration. It shouldn’t have happened and it was not who he was 99% of the time. I’m not going to deny what happened at the end, but I’m going to remember the Adi in my heart that loved his family, loved his friends, and loved life.