Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Body of a Mother

A big question that pops into my mind all hours of the day and night is where Davidi will go in the army - which unit. It's actually a quite silly debate because other than the "special" and "elite" units, their non-war time "activities" are amazingly similar. The guys in tanks are in tanks...but also on check points. Artillery fires massive...well...artillery...but the rest of the time (most of the time they are in service), they are assigned to check points and patrols.

Givati, Golani, Kfir and others...once you are in a combat unit, it is...well...a combat unit but the illusion of safety is there and I hold on to it.

Davidi...no...David....I'm trying to call him David. Davidi is the name of a child, a young boy, who runs after his older brothers, not the young man who has passed both his brothers and his father in height. Davidi would come over at random times and give me a hug; David has to be asked for one and he'll give it, but the look is one that says it's going to be me asking from now on. Davidi was "order-able;" David...not so much.

As Davidi got older, he would ask if he could do a "meshmeret" - a shift serving on the local ambulance squad; and it was almost always in Maale Adumim. David tells me that he's coming home to do a meshmeret...and it is often in Jerusalem, a big and busy city where ambulances are in action all the time. In Maale Adumim, to my great joy, Davidi could spend the entire shift in the volunteer room outfitted with TV and computers, air conditioning, cold and hot water, couches and a small kitchen. In Jerusalem, he's lucky if he gets a chance to grab something to eat in between calls.

David shows a sensitivity that was rarely shown by the others at 19 (and yes, they have this sensitivity in abundance now but pre-army, not so much). Oh, he's got a ways to go, but he's thoughtful...or tries to be. At 19, his older brothers knew they were stronger than me, but didn't always act on that strength; now, with David, when he is home, he is quick to reach for the high shelf, take out the garbage, mix the 3 kilos of challah dough I make each week by hand, and so much more.

He stands in between in so many ways. David was the first of my children born in Israel and too often in his mind he was lumped with Aliza, who was born 4 years after he was. It was the three older ones, and the "kids" - as the older ones referred to the two younger ones.

Only he didn't want to be there with the younger ones. He always wanted to be with the bigger ones. By his nature, David walks between conflicts, seldom taking sides, trying to balance, to understand everyone and reject no one.

As for what's coming at him, he's more aware of what the army is than his brothers were at the same age. Elie had no one really to speak with before and so he carved a path - for himself and for the others. Shmulik went through the Hesder program; different in many ways than the experience that Elie had. David goes through Hesder but also speaks with Elie and the others.

He's lived with the army not just in our society, as Elie and Shmulik did, but in our family. Elie was eight years old when David was born; Shmulik was about to turn six. David was 11 when Elie went into the army; 13 the first time Elie went to war. He was 14 when Shmulik went in to the army and 15 the second time Elie went to war. He sat around our table listening first to Yaakov, then Elie, then Shmulik and Chaim speaking about the army.


More and more, he has reached the older group - where he speaks a common language of army, of cars, of computers and smartphones. In November, he goes into the army. I've been asked to speak abroad again (more on that later) and will be abroad for 5 days and though David thinks his group will be inducted close to the end, I have this growing feeling of dread that the dates will shift and I'll be abroad.

I'm experienced enough with the army to know that it is a silly thing to feel this dread. Even if...even if...I am abroad - all I will miss is that ride to the drop off point, where, if I'm lucky, I'll get a kiss and a hug and a quick wave...and then I'll talk to him later and he'll tell me he's wearing a uniform.

The first week is nothing - and they send them home for Shabbat...and by then, I'll be home to see him...even if he goes in while I'm away. Even the first six months are nothing, I remind myself repeatedly. He'll be in training at least that long, if not longer.

The "relative" quiet is holding - a few rockets here or there, not many - certainly not enough to trigger a war...so it looks like the pattern will hold and there will not be a war this year. In 2009 there was one...it held for four years, another in 2012, another in 2014.

If I do the math, the summer of 2016...before/after - David will be finished with basic training. Givati, Golani, Shiryon...ground forces, tanks, artillery...it's all too frightening to consider and it's really only a mind game because we never know. A dozen times there will be hints that a war is about to start and each time, suddenly, it will fizzle...almost quiet again...just enough quiet to deter a response...until the fizzle turns to sizzle and the quiet we were expecting doesn't come...and a whisper of mobilization, and then war...

My third soldier (with apologies to Yakov who was my first in many ways and Chaim who was my fourth); my youngest son (even factoring in Yakov and Chaim on this one). In a few weeks, more soldiers will be inducted; and then, a few months after that, David.

In the quiet of my heart, I don't believe I'll survive this one. And before you ask or fear, I'm fine...I am...and my brain has already kicked in, yelling at my fingers for typing that first part...drama and stupidity, says my brain to my heart. You didn't think you'd survived Elie going in, Shmulik too. You did, and you'll survive this one. My heart looks away, stupid brain, I'm allowed my feelings and it isn't like I'm telling anyone else!

Did you not see the fingers type out your thoughts, my brain smirks at my heart. Leave me alone, my heart says again. Just leave me alone. I'm breaking with this one, I am, says my heart. Drama and stupidity says my brain again and though my hand doesn't move, the brain registers a slap to my forehead.

And while the debate inside of me rages, the words I'll never say; thoughts I'll never share float to the surface. I can't do this again.

I know that I will...and I will. Really. The heart is really full of drama sometimes; it lacks the logic of the brain. It feels, so deeply. Everything is magnified, extreme. It breaks, it fears, it mourns, it shatters, and is rebuilt.

The brain is so much calmer, almost embarrassed by the heart. The brain is happy that the mouth is close by so it can be controlled more easily and words the heart would utter are never spoken. The mouth takes its instructions from the brain, after all, leaving the deepest expressions of the heart unsaid.

Usually. Sometimes, despite the brain's intentions, the heart wins and the mouth speaks our greatest fears or the fingers type them. It is a battle as ageless as time - the brain, the heart, the mouth, the fingers.

I've got a bit over three months to pull myself together, to be ready to drive him to the drop off point where my heart will promise to remain silent, where the brain will be filled with sentences and topics that will assure David I have not a worry in the world. And as it speaks to David of silly things, it will watch the heart very carefully, not trusting for a moment that something won't slip. The mouth will smile and transmit the brain's words, under strict orders to ignore the heart. The eyes will remain dry and do their best to reflect the smile, with the promise that tears can come later, after he does inside, and only after I have reached a safe zone, a place where no one will see.

The arms will offer a quick hug and despite the heart screaming to hold on, to not let him go, the arms will release him and he'll go off with a wave and a smile and never once give my heart notice. And the arms that wanted to hold, will wave back, even as the heart feels as if it is shattering.

And I will watch him go, as his brothers did before him and I will be what I have been for more than eight years now...a soldier's mother.

I don't know how, but I'll do it. I will...I think.


1 comment:

Batya Medad said...

I sent "only two" to the army, and they did most of their three years simultaneously. It was at the height of the 2nd intifada (a misnomer, since I never saw an announcement of the end of the so called "first.")

I can imagine that doing it again would feel worse.

Copyright Statement

Everything on this site is protected and copyrighted according to Israeli and international laws. Violators WILL be prosecuted.

For permission to use pictures or text from this site, please write to: info@paulasays.com.