Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Nothing left to do...

...but worry.

He's got all he needs - the backpack in which to pack his things, the green undershirts that will soon be a part of his uniform, extra little "gadgets" that he loves - like a keychain flashlight and a business card-size "thing" that contains pretty much everything - a flashlight, pen, 4 different screw drivers, magnifying glass, scissors, tweasers, and I'm not even sure what else.

For him, these last days are dragging by - he's ready, all set...waiting to go.

For me, I'm trying to act normal, keeping anxiety and worry at bay by trying to get the family back into a normal routine. Planning a family wedding is amazingly disruptive to the normal course of events. It's a wonderful thing to have, but it touches and rearranges schedules for weeks before and even after. Now, as things settle back to what they were and the new couple wants nothing more than to be left alone, it's time I can focus on Elie...but the amazing reality is, that isn't what he wants.

Going to the army is a part of what he was raised to do, as much a part of normal life as pretty much every other stage in his life. It doesn't represent life and death battles, moral dilemnas, enemies or politics. It's a place he'll go to meet his obligation and because of how he feels about the country in which he lives, he'll perform his service to the best of his ability, as he serves in the local ambulance squad, as he "serves" in the family.

For a young man, the army in Israel is about change, but also about growth. It's about new friends and about new experiences. To focus on this, is to help us cope with the unknown. He asked me tonight about how many pairs of socks he should bring with him. The army will give him 9 pairs of socks - should he bring a few more? This is a code phrase for the question of how long he'll be away from home. Or maybe not - maybe I am reading too much into what is really a simple question.

He'll go to the army on Sunday - just 4 days from now. The army almost always sends the boys home for the first weekend after they enlist. It's their way of assuring us that the separation isn't permanent; that they aren't leaving home forever. After the weekend...comes the first period of unknown. How long will he be gone? When will he come home? Where will he be stationed? How long will it take him to get back here and how early in the morning will he have to leave in order to get back to base in time?

If he's like other soldiers that I've met, he'll come home tired and hungry and all he'll want to do is shower, sleep and eat. We'll have to learn to leave him to the quiet he'll need, just as now he needs us to act as if Sunday doesn't represent some major change in our lives.

He wants Sunday to be just another day. Just as before he went off to his yeshiva to learn for a few weeks at a time, now he'll go to the army. No fundamental difference, he wants to believe. But for us, it represents every possible difference in the world. But this is too much for him to handle, too much to take in when he's looking forward and not back at us. He'll go with a clean head and a full heart because we won't burden him with our worries and fears.

Oh, he knows we are scared - but what is not spoken isn't heard...or so a young 19-year-old on the threshold of tomorrow would believe.

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