We are adding memories of Omer (in no particular
order). If you have one or more stories you are willing to contribute,
please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Born, September 10, at Soroka Hospital, Be'er Sheva, Israel.
First child of Mark and Naomi Shenker. Omer came home to Kibbutz
Shoval a few days later.
Omer came home in the middle of a 'chamseen' (a hot, suffocating,
desert wind). We wanted to make sure to protect our first child.
At the hospital we wrapped him in a sweater and several blankets.
Arriving home on the kibbutz, we gingerly peeled away the layers
of the large bundle to reveal a tiny, scrawny, and very smelly
child, frighteningly small. We did not have a clue how to make
the much needed change of diaper.
Omer's circumcision was delayed by a day because it would
have coincided with Yom Kippur. It was the last time he was
the primary participant in a Jewish ceremony until his memorial
service. Not much of a record - hard to blame him though, given
that first experience...
Like all children on the kibbutz, Omer lived in the children's
houses. He started out in the Baby House with another five children
born during the same period. They had two full-time caretakers,
trained in caring for infants.
We would take Omer in his stroller to the gate of the kibbutz
to watch the activity on the road that skirted the kibbutz.
He would watch intently as the occasional car, truck, bus, tractor,
or donkey-riding Bedouin passed. He did not realize that grown-ups
could see over the curve in the road and he was amazed and properly
impressed by our ability to “predict” a vehicle
seconds before it arrived. We would make a movement of our hands
as if conjuring up the vehicle and he would strain forward to
see what he so firmly believed would arrive any second. His
grin of appreciation made us feel ruefully amused.
Omer's family moved to London, England.
February - the family moved to Brookline, Massachusetts, in the
U.S. Omer attended kindergarten at a Brookline public school.
June - the family moved to Houston, Texas
September - Omer began first grade at the Irvin M. Shlenker School.
At age 10, Omer traveled by himself to visit his grandparents
in Scotland. He wrote home.
August - Omer began middle school (sixth grade) at T.H. Rogers,
part of the Houston Independent School District (HISD).
T.H. Rogers Middle School, a program for gifted children,
was the first place that Omer spent time with other children
like himself. He blossomed in the school's nurturing atmosphere,
for the first time finding a group of friends who recognized
a kindred spirit.
The PC/Mac wars raged throughout the first two years of middle
school, with Omer bravely taking the Mac side. The debates and
jokes were endless. For the first time Omer had found friends
who shared the quirky humor and intense interests that are so
typical of gifted children. T.H. Rogers Middle School, a small
school for gifted children, was a haven for Omer. He made solid
friendships some of which lasted his life.
Omer managed to make the state finals of the Geography Bee
when he was in 7th grade, at Rogers. I accompanied him to Fort
Worth and we both realized quickly that he was, for once, way
out of his league. Geography had been one of his consuming interests.
The walls of his room were plastered with National Geographic
maps from all around the world and he would hover near them,
absorbing every detail. But the students who reached the final
had apparently been obsessed, not just consumed. The questions
were extremely difficult and Omer was out of the competition
after the second round. He seemed to take it in his stride,
genuinely impressed by the small group of children who were
so obviously way ahead. He was wryly amused by the obsessive
nature of the winning children, shaking his head as he described
some of the antics that occurred out of sight of the audience.
It was almost as though he were relieved to find that what looked
like his own obsessive interest (when compared to others at
his school) had been put in perspective.
August - Omer began high school at Bellaire Senior High, also part
Omer was a member of the Math Club at Bellaire. He recounted
how the other members, who were almost all Asians, asked him
if he was Jewish. At that stage, Omer did not consider himself
Jewish, not being a believer, so he answered, "No."
This was met by puzzled looks, "So how come you are so
good at math?"
On our trip to Virginia, it didn’t take us long to
realize that we were not going to remember all the weird and
wonderful things we would see. Somewhere between the billboard
in Vidor, Texas inviting passer-bys to kill their wives and
the state road signs that were too small to show the entire
outline of Louisiana, we knew we were in for some good Americana.
Omer got out a notebook and in his chicken-scrawl kept our
log for the rest of the long, two-day journey from Houston
to Williamsburg, Virginia.
As we skimmed across the endless, shimmering interstates of
August, we laughed, rolled eyes, and exchanged looks of wonder.
This was Omer’s journey from childhood to adulthood,
from home to college, from dependence to independence. That’s
what it felt like at the time and we both reveled in it. We
were putting behind us the bleak battles of adolescence and
depression. Ahead lay an opportunity both of us were excited
about. For two days we traveled in a cocoon of camaraderie,
laughter, relaxed friendship, and anticipation. The rest of
the world slid silently by outside the air-conditioned comfort
of our car.
In the afternoon of the second day, as we raced up the length
of Virginia’s spine, we were both struck by the under-stated
beauty of the Appalachians. The twisting road was a reprise
of farm-filled valleys, orchards, and comfortable, wooded
glens. The road built to a scenic crescendo culminating in
our arrival in Williamsburg. We spent that afternoon exploring
some of the William & Mary campus, scoping out the dorm
and parking that would allow us the next day to unload the
collection of electronic devices that seemed to make up the
majority of the Omer’s baggage.
The next day we lugged everything up three flights of stairs
and I sat panting on Omer’s bed as he quietly set up
all his equipment, tested (and approved) the network speed,
hung the posters he had chosen to bring. We chatted with his
roommate and his roommate’s mother and then I said goodbye
to Omer. I told him he should let me know if he had any problems
and he solemnly nodded. Uncharacteristically, he thanked me
for the long trip and my help and then turned to begin his
As I drove the much longer road back to Houston I was devastated
by a feeling of loss. I had lost a friend and it had happened
totally without warning. I was unprepared for the depth of
feeling that brought tears to my eyes. Of course, I had no
clue that it was but a pale foreshadowing of the loss I was
to later feel. Somewhere in our house may still be that log
Omer kept. I am looking.
August - Omer started at the College of William & Mary, in
Williamsburg, Virginia. He started as a sophomore because of 60
credits earned through AP tests.
His first dorm room configuration was a pair of double rooms
with a bathroom shared between them. Cleaning the bathroom,
or the rest of the room, was not a popular (or commonly performed)
task. On Omer's first trip home, his urgent shopping list was
topped by air fresheners. He took back a dozen in his suitcase.
Omer was an ardent instant messenger. He would chat with me
(his father) fairly frequently but I also learned to expect
the unexpected. A message popped up one day while I was deep
in the analysis of data, "How do you iron a shirt?"
Clearly, Omer did not leave home with all the skills he needed
for college. I was not able to answer that question over AIM
but we did talk by phone.
Omer adapted a program to track data about his instant messaging.
One of the statistics he collected, and made available for people
to see, concerned the average length of words used by his "buddies."
I was pleased to see that Ellie was near the top of the list
(another verbally gifted child) but I decided that I also needed
to be up there. I started dropping the spaces between words
and my messageslookedlikethis. Omer was both amused and annoyed
and half-heartedly threatened to cut off my access to him. I
gave up, but only after a few more messages - justtoshowhimIwasn'tintimidated.
November - Omer was forced to take a medical withdrawal from college.
Omer took his own life, sometime during the night of March 29/30.