Saturday, February 24, 2007

Precious Moments

As the clock ticks down towards both my daughter's upcoming wedding and Elie's entering the army, I find each moment is that much more precious. Today we gathered for our "last" Shabbat meal together as the family unit we have been. In another two weeks, even a little less, Haim will be joining our family and two weeks later, Elie will enter the army.

Much of what Elie is feeling is kept private - it is his nature both to keep things private and to keep things in perspective. As a mother, that is much harder for me to do. I could discuss and analzye this forever, and the result would be the same. With all the wedding plans, we have yet to address the things Elie will need. The closest we have come to figuring this out was when my husband bought me a present - a wind-up flashlight that I'd heard about. Elie saw it and thought it was useful and I realize that I'll want to get one for him as it is much more reliable than battery-operated flashlights.

So, for now, we are in a holding pattern - enjoying these precious moments, knowing change is just around the corner.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"The" Letter

The final draft call letter has arrived. The list of items the army will provide is a startling reminder that my son is entering the army. They will give him a set number of shirts, undershirts, socks, underwear, pants, shirts (uniforms), etc.

You wouldn't expect any different, but for a mother about to send her first son off to the army, you can't help wondering who will give him love and warmth. Love and warmth. It is something my son takes for granted and would certainly scorn if anyone expressed the idea that he would need such things. He remains, before the army, a teenage boy. I have no doubt the army will turn him into "a man," though I will mourn the loss of the boy.

Already, as a frequent and "mature" volunteer in the local ambulance squad, he has seen things that I have never seen. I have (thank God), never had someone die in my arms or beside me as I tried to save his life. I'm not sure I'd even know what to do and yet Elie handles it all with grace and leadership. I believe he will do well in the army (if they don't crush him first...and perhaps even if they do). The army is known to crush the individual within you in many ways - it is the nature of an army, any army, all armies, and the Israeli army is no different.

But the Israeli army is known to build you back up - better than you were before, stronger, more decisive. I have no doubts that Elie can handle the army and will probably even love it, as many boys do. He is, at 19, so incredibly self-sufficient. He cooks - he's one of the best in the family. Rice, chicken, omelets, noodles with sauces - whatever it is, Elie is not afraid to try cooking. He does his own laundry (doesn't trust me not to lose his socks).

But there is, within me, the concern for the person deep inside him. Elie doesn't need to share his emotions and so I try to pull them out of him at times. I guess one of my fears is that no one in the army will be there to do that.

His commanding officer is scheduled to come to our home Saturday night. He will talk to Elie in preparation for what is to come. This is so typical of the Israeli army - the personal touch, the outreach. I am hoping that it will help me as well as Elie adjust to what is to come.

Perhaps the greatest injustice...and this whole process is that my oldest daughter is getting married just two weeks before Elie goes into the army. This helps me focus on other things, but it also doesn't allow us all to focus completely on Elie - for the good and the bad.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Starting Young

Starting from a very young age, Israeli boys (and girls) know that they are destined to go to the army. It's part of how they grow up, where they are headed, who they will become. For those of us who came to Israel as adults, it's something that is harder to assimilate. It's so easy, year after year, to deny that it will happen, to postpone dealing with it. So, here I am, six weeks away from when my son will enter the Israeli army, suddenly having it all become real. This blog is a soldier's mother's story.

Elie is 19 years old. A handsome boy with the most incredible blue eyes. He's smart, a volunteer in the ambulance squad, and lest you think that I think he is perfect, he's got a mighty fine temper and his room's a terrible mess. Elie is the manager of the family, the one who analyzes everything. From the time he was young, he didn't trust us mere adults to manage things. When everyone else would fall asleep on those long evening drives home after a long vacation or whatever, Elie would stay awake and keep watch. "Are we lost?" he would ask when I hesitated. Only Elie.

Once, on a trip to Eilat, we really were lost. Only Elie was awake when I pulled up to the roadblock and queried the soldier why he wouldn't open the gate to let us pass.

"Where do you want to go?" the soldier asked.

"Eilat," I answered.

He smiled, "Back 29 kilometers and make a right."

"What's that ahead of us?" I asked.

"Egypt" was his answer.

I made a u-turn, while everyone else was sleeping and looked in the mirror to see Elie's eyes watching me. Always watching. Always Elie.

So - Elie is all grown up now, a man about to go to the army. We got his "marching" orders last week - artillery unit, and already I am panicking. Not because I don't want him to go, but because I haven't had the time to accept it all. My daughter, Elie's older sister, is getting married in a few weeks and two weeks after that, Elie goes in. I've been up to my elbows in wedding plans and jitters. Dresses and caterers and invitations and most importantly, smoothing out the nerves of a happy and excited bride. And, in the middle of all this, quietly moving closer and closer was this date - end of March, 2007, my son will be a soldier.

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