I got a call today from someone named Shlomi. He asked if I was Chaim's mother...I was about to say no, or Chaim who...when I thought of my adopted son, Chaim. All sorts of thoughts came into my mind, and I knew to get answers to my questions, I had to answer that one first.
"Yes," I answered mostly because I didn't want to waste time explaining when I thought something was wrong, "did something happen? Is he okay?"
Shlomi explained that he was Chaim's commanding officer and was quick to assure me that everything was fine. He was calling because he wanted to come visit and explain to me all about how Chaim is doing in the army, what he is doing, and what he will do for the next few months. This happened during the early weeks of Elie's service (The Uniform and the Visit). The commanding officer comes to the parents and answers all their questions.
As soon as I realized the purpose of the call, I explained to Shlomi, "Wait, I'm not really his mother. His mother is in America. We adopted him." But then, I thought, that isn't a good enough explanation and so I explained that our children consider him like a brother, like one of the family...here, while he has a wonderful family there. I explained that I have a son who just finished artillery and my second son also just entered another Kfir unit.
I was trying to save Shlomi the visit, but he wants to come anyway. I told him straight out - you don't have to come. I'll hear about Kfir when Shmulik's commanding officer comes - "I want to tell you about Chaim," he explained.
I finally gave up...maybe he has orders to visit and doesn't have a choice, I thought. Elie explained that it is as much for Chaim as it is for us - Shlomi wants to tell us about Chaim, but he also wants to see what kind of support system Chaim has here in Israel, and tomorrow we will show him that Chaim has a loving home here as well as in America, a place he can come any time. This visit from the commanding officer is, in many ways, more about the soldier than it is about the family. I missed that the first time around with Elie. I needed the visit and so didn't think about the army's needs. But the army needs to know the soldier can concentrate on being a soldier, on learning what he needs to learn, on becoming what he needs to become.
If the family doesn't have food at home and this son was the one who worked extra hours to help, the army wants to know that. Special arrangements can be made; organizations brought in to help. Elie had a few special needs soldiers - one was given every weekend off so he could work for a few days and bring in extra income; Yashar LaChayal (http://www.yasharlachayal.com) is an organization that focuses on lone soldiers and soldiers from needy families. It has been known to buy stoves, refrigerators, even beds for these families.
This is the first introduction to the soldier's family - the first time they can calculate if the family will drag the soldier down...or help lift him up. Elie was blessed...we are blessed...that his home represents a place that welcomes him, supports him, frees him, loves him.
Tomorrow, Shlomi will want to calculate if Chaim has something similar and I'll tell him that as blessed as Elie was...Chaim is even more so. Chaim has an older brother...two even...Yaakov by birth and Elie by choice...who have been through the army and with whom he can share his thoughts and questions. He has parents that adore him, a younger sister that will love him and send him special messages and an older sister who will share her pride and support too. He has three adorable (I've seen the pictures!) nieces and grandparents...all a phone call away...and yes, here in Israel, he has many friends and our family as well.
All this I understood this time, where I didn't understand the first time with Elie. I thought it amazing that the army would care enough to escort the parents through this army business, but now I understand that while it is a wonderful thing...there is a purpose to all things in the army, including this first visit with the soldier's family.
Later in the day, Shlomi called again to explain that he didn't have time to come today and would come tomorrow to our home. We made arrangements to pick him up at the front of the city and drive him here where we will sit and listen. It was then that I asked him a question "Could I record your talking?" I asked him.
"You mean with video?" he asked.
"No, just your voice. I want to send it to Chaim's mother. Not all of it, maybe the part where you say what a good soldier he is," I said with a smile.
"No problem," Shlomi answered. "I'll even try to speak in English."
So tomorrow is my second visit with a commander of one of "my" sons. No doubt in the next few weeks, Shmulik's commanding officer will come here as well. I'll let him come...I hope I can convince him that Shmulik has as much support as Chaim will have!
When Or came to tell me about Elie's army service, I was anxious to learn, to understand where Elie was, what he would do. I knew nothing and relied on Or to explain so much. Now, I smile at this visit. I don't need Shlomi to tell me that he is watching over Chaim...I know this. I don't need Shlomi to tell me about basic training and advanced training, of the daily routine and more.
But perhaps the army needs me to tell them that Chaim has support outside the framework of the army and so this I will explain back. And as for that little kick of concern when Shlomi asked if I was Chaim's mother and all I could think was that something had happened to him...(illogical as it was because Chaim isn't even IN the army now but rather on a Passover break), I'll take that moment and pray it is all the fear I will ever have for any of them.
I'm sorry that Shlomi is coming to my home and not to Chaim's mother's house. I wish she could be here to sit and ask questions and be assured that the army is watching out for her son. I feel a bit disloyal that I answered that Chaim was my son...I only did it because in that split second, I was afraid he wouldn't tell me something important. As soon as I said I wasn't Chaim's real mother, Shlomi said he knows.
He understands that Chaim is a lone soldier with a family in America. Tomorrow, I hope I'll succeed in taping a bit of the interview so that Chaim's real family can share this moment and know that Israel is grateful for their son's service, that Israel is committed to Chaim...as Chaim has committed to Israel.
May God always bless Chaim with the love and support of his family...his families, near and far.