Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Where My Son Isn't...

The first time I remember "playing" this game of where my son was and was not was in the days and hours before a war.

"Where are you?" I would ask, knowing that the army was going to move Elie's unit any day. The question was which day and to which potential war front they were going to move them. I don't know what I was hoping, but I remember feeling as if someone had punched me in the stomach, removed all the air in the world, when he told me he wasn't "where you left me" or "where you dropped me off last time."

He'd been based in the center of the country and so I often arranged my schedule to visit a client site on Sunday mornings to drop him off on my way, or on Thursdays so I could swing by and pick him up. That was three sons and close to 10 years ago. On that horrible day, Elie told me that he wasn't in the center of the country and I asked, "are you north of where I left you, or south?"

That was a code for are you near Gaza or near Lebanon. I don't know if I was more or less frightened when he answered...south...Gaza. Just a day or two later, war.

Where are sons are is a game we play pretty much all the time. A tank turned over in the north and one soldier was killed, three wounded. The tank is in the north...David was in the north...and so your heart races ahead even though your brain knows he isn't even in the tank division. It doesn't help when the news reports that the tank division was in training with a Givati unit...David's unit. David was close.

An army patrol car is rammed...south of Jerusalem, Davidi isn't there. The world is measured, when y our son is a soldier, by where he is in relation to what happened and though you mourn or worry about everything, the out of control worry spins fastest until you pinpoint those two points on the map that is always in your head. Here is where something happened; there is where he is...breathe.

For these six weeks...five weeks and five days...if all is well, wherever the first pin goes on the map, Davidi won't be there because he has returned for a "break" between years in the army. Six weeks back in his yeshiva. Six weeks on a non-army schedule. Six weeks to have fun, eat, sleep a bit more, be lazy, go out, sleep in his bed at home more.

Six weeks to be the man he has become and put the soldier away for a while. I don't miss the soldier, but I wonder if Davidi does. What goes through his mind? How does it feel to be parted with the rifle that he literally had to sleep with, hold on to, be responsible for?

At nearly 21 years old, I think his thoughts are less complicated than that of a mother who knows that too soon, the uniform will come back, the rifle return. For now, I relish where my son is not. He is not out in the cold and rain of Israel's winter months. He is not in the Golan where Syrian forces have been pushing the borders and firing mortars. He is not at a check point or out on patrol.

Where he is for these brief weeks is where every 20 year old man/boy should be. Thinking a bit about the future, deciding if he'll catch a movie when he comes home this weekend. He'll mess up his room and be lazy about taking out the garbage. And if I'm lucky, as I was last Thursday night, he'll be my mixer of the challah dough and save my arms the exercise.

And if I am to take my own advice, I will try really hard in the next few weeks not to look at the calendar, not to think about how fast five weeks and five days can pass.

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