Saturday, June 13, 2009

Two Weeks...Three Barbecues

Early in the week, I called Elie and told him that I had agreed to take someone to the airport (another of my "adopted" children who was returning to her family in the States). My parents moved to Israel about 8 years ago and live about 20 minutes from the airport; my brother flew in from the States to attend a conference and was staying with my parents.

So, I took my two daughters, along with my adopted daughter (the daughter of close family friends) out to dinner and then called to suggest we quickly stop by and see my brother. The idea continued to develop and I thought - just another 20 minutes or so beyond my parents' house - is Elie's base. I checked with Elie, who checked with his commanding officer and all was set.

I would drive my daughters to my parents' house. Pick up my brother, drive to pick up Elie, return to my parents' house - and then do it all in reverse. As planned, I got to the first stop - daughters out; brother in - and onwards. It was great to visit with my brother; to talk of many things and, as I exited the highway, I called Elie to tell him we'd be at his base within 10 minutes.

Instead of answering, I got an SMS, "I'll call you later." This is a standard message he sends - it means he is busy. I kept driving and pulled up in front of his base and waited about 10 minutes. To show the guards that all was well, my brother and I got out of the car and stood leaning against it as we waited. A pickup truck drove by and a few soldiers came out of the base to take the food they'd ordered. A motorcycle drove up, and another soldier came out to get the pizza he'd ordered. Ten minutes passed - and no Elie.

I called and he closed the phone. Not a good sign. We waited a while. The pickup truck returned with more food; more soldiers came out. A father came and dropped something off for his son. We waited. I sent Elie an SMS, "We are waiting outside." He sent back a message "In meeting."

Not good. We waited and talked. The pizza motorcycle came back; soldiers came out for a run. Army vehicles drove in and drove out. Humvees and bulletproof personnel carriers. And still nothing.

"Should we keep waiting?" I asked Elie in another message. He answered back "5 minutes" and so we waited. The five minutes came and went, along with another 10 minutes. I wasn't sure what to do; hated the idea of just leaving. And then he called, "Did you leave yet?" he asked. You can't imagine the joy I felt at being able to tell him we were still there.

A few minutes later, he came out. We drove to my parents' house stayed a short while. My brother is in the US Navy Reserves - my son is in the Israeli army. They talked of silly things - of how they tie their boots, or restrictions and army life in general.

Our original plan was to get everyone together for Thursday night, but Elie told us on Monday that it looked like the army was scheduling something for him to do. In the end, plans shifted again and Elie was able to come home early on Thursday instead and so, we gathered on my parents' rooftop to have a barbecue. Two of my nephews joined us - one is also a commander in another artillery unit.

There were so many impressions that crossed my brain. One was Elie telling me it was his third barbecue in two weeks. Just the night before, Elie and the rest of the commanders took the unit's barbecue and went off and gave themselves a break. They were given some food from the army base; they bought other food, and had time to relax.

My nephew was finally released for the weekend at 6:00 p.m. (where Elie had been released at 6:00 a.m.). Yair finally showed up around 9:00 at night; took off his army shirt, grabbed food, and began to relax. Elie was busy doing the cooking; the rest of us were sitting back and relaxing.

When the food was all cooked, I looked over to see Elie and Yair standing to the side speaking quietly with each other. There is a common thread there - one that goes beyond being cousins. I don't know what they spoke about, in their quiet tones but it was wonderful to watch them standing there.

Watching Elie cook, clean, and in general jump to do whatever had to be done, made me again see the man more than the boy. More and more, he is the man and so when the boy teases his sisters and argues and complains, I find I object to it less. Where once it would have driven me crazy to have him behave in an immature way at a critical point in a discussion or family meal, I find I laugh at it more, even encourage him to some extent. I still love that boy so much that when he is around, I let him know more than I should, that he will always be a part of my life.

The man will soon have vacation from the army. The man will help us pack and move to a house we just bought. The man came to my office and fixed my leaking air conditioner...I love the man...but I so love that boy and it was the boy that laughed when I invited him to a barbecue this week - his third in such a short period of time.

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