Wednesday, November 12, 2008

So, you wanna laugh?

There are moments in life when you have the option to cry or to laugh; to beat your head in frustration or accept and find the humor. I try to find the reason to laugh, the humor in the most absurd of conditions.

Some people are, by their nature, negative. They wish it were different, but in most situations, they'll worry about the worst case scenarios, look for the bad, as if to prepare themselves. Some people are, by nature, positive and optimistic. However bad it might be, it can always be worse, no?

I am, for the most part, of this second type. I have no doubt that there is always a worse or worst out there somewhere. For the most part, this is something I have tried to give to my children. Accept what there is, deal with what has happened, and find the bright side. It could always be worse.

Why this philosophical debate...well...

Elie came home last night. Note that yesterday was Tuesday and he left on Sunday to go to the training base in the south to begin preparations for starting as a commander of incoming soldiers. Elie was not supposed to come home last night. Actually, he was supposed to only come home in about two weeks, but there he was.

What happened was...well, let's add some background first...if you don't know the story of the first time Elie was asked to command a course of incoming soldiers, click here. What this amounts to is a decision to stay true to his religious beliefs pitted against the army's decision to allow women who want to serve in combat positions to fulfill their wishes.

So Elie made a decision (and in fact, the army had asked him from the start how he felt about being placed in close quarters with female soldiers). It is as much his right to choose not to serve in this way, as it is a woman's right to choose to join a combat unit. Both are better for stating and remaining true to their preferences. The army had not taken enough into consideration and did its best to rectify the situation. Elie was sent to a checkpoint to command soldiers there; another commander was brought from the checkpoint to train the female soldiers.

When Elie returned to the g'dud (battalion), the Battalion Commander met with him and apologized for the army's mistake. He also made Elie a promise that with the next rotation, Elie could choose what he wanted to do. Elie did as commanded, leading the soldiers but not loving the role he was given (he liked commanding the checkpoint but didn't like also being in charge of equipment and communications).

The months passed and Elie was asked if he wanted to return south to command the next group of incoming soldiers. He met again with the Battalion Commander who told Elie that while they wanted him and knew he would do a good job, he first wanted to confirm that no women were assigned to the unit Elie would command. Having learned the lesson, he explained, there should be no mistakes this time.

Several days later, after everything was checked and rechecked, Elie was given the go-ahead and began preparing himself. He was excited about the challenge and looking forward to both the few weeks of training and the time when the new soldiers would come in.

He left the house on Sunday loaded with two huge and heavy backpacks. He called me Monday night, "Guess what?"

Of course, I couldn't could I?

"There might be girls in the unit."

"WHAT???" I said, "no way. Are you serious?"

And Elie laughed. That told me that he was accepting whatever would happen.

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"It means I might be coming home tomorrow."

I didn't know what to say. How could they have done this again? Where would Elie be assigned?

The next day, Elie and the other commanders went to the shooting range. One of the commanders took his gun, and Elie "taught" him how to shoot, as Elie and the others would soon teach these new soldiers. And then Elie's phone rang.

Elie called me as he walked the two kilometers back to base. He hoped to catch the next bus home. He arrived back about 9:00 p.m. "How long will you be home?" I asked.

"I don't know. They could call me tomorrow or the next day. They could even forget about me for a week."

"Where will they send you?"

"Don't know."

"Are you OK with this?"

"Yeah. Fine. I get a free vacation."

Where will they send him? Who will they bring to lead the new group? All I can say is...stay tuned....

As for Elie, he's fine and laughing. He got home, threw a few clothes into the laundry, "I'm not going to wash my sheets," he said. "I only slept on it two nights."

He slept in his bed last night, as he will tonight. It's a rare treat, we are going to enjoy. The one who is apparently not laughing, is the Battalion Commander. He's been good to Elie and must feel they let Elie down again. But apparently I've raised my son to look on the bright side of things.

So, Elie...what do you want for dinner tonight? And the answer is....pancakes!

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