Elie’s real first day of vacation began yesterday. Immediately after he had awakened and said his morning prayers (something he does differently than he did before the army – where once it was forced and now it comes more easily to him), he went with me to my Jerusalem office. While I worked for a few hours to clear off important issues on my desk before (hopefully) taking off for the Passover holiday, Elie put together chairs for the conference room and ran some errands for me.
When I finally finished, later than expected, Elie and I went shopping for the Passover holidays. This is always a long, expensive, and difficult task. Everything we use, even items that are kosher for Passover all year long – still are not used if they were opened before the holidays, and so it is a major purchase. To make things more complicated, a dear friend’s young son was hit by a car this week. While she is with her son, I offered to do her Passover shopping as well. Armed with her list and mine, Elie and I attempted to shop for two families in a store that is largely unfamiliar to me. I didn’t know where things were, but the prices and selection are good and I decided to try that as my first stop (typically, I can go to several stores before really completing my list).
It took hours to accomplish and then we had to stuff it into the car’s trunk and back seat. We came home to find more needed to be done, dinner warmed up and then, after all of the shopping we had done, we both realized we hadn’t even bought the things we would need for the Sabbath, which comes today. Our focus had been only on the upcoming holiday next week.
“I’d rather do it now,” Elie told me – as if it were a foregone conclusion that he would be the one to go shopping and so, another short list, another trip to the store. This time he went alone while I stayed and put dinner on the table.
That was his first day of vacation. Today is his second day – Friday – and he will likely help around the house and prepare for the Sabbath and help clean the house for Passover (it’s an almost never-ending task…which thankfully must end as the Passover holiday arrives next week).
Tomorrow is the Sabbath. As Orthodox Jews, we don’t drive and so tomorrow too, Elie will be home. Half his vacation gone, I hope he will do something special on Sunday – something for himself. We spent so much time together talking that I can’t remember all the bits and pieces I knew I wanted to catch and write down.
“Are you lonely there? Sometimes I think I hear it in your voice,” I confided to him (what you all know, but he’s never heard).
“No. Some of the guys always want to be home, but I’m not like that,” he said.
“Great thing to tell you mother,” I said and was quick enough to catch his smile.
He told me about how there is always someone in the lookout post – often more than one – and a commander. At night, a commander must be there and so there’s a mattress on the floor where the commander can sleep, ready should there be a problem. He sleeps in uniform, with his boots on, and a radio endlessly droning on.
“Can you sleep with all that noise?” And again that smile.
“Sure. No problem,” he said. It’s true – it’s something he has learned in the army – the ability to fall asleep wherever he can, whenever he allows his body to sleep. I take hours to fall asleep sometimes, my brain constantly churning over events and facts. Elie has but to close his eyes and tell his body to sleep. I envy him that.
Last night, I couldn’t sleep in the middle of the night. I woke after a bad dream – a silly dream that was as obvious in its source as it was to interpret. I don’t drive that way and so there’s no reason to believe I would lose control speeding around a turn I have driven thousands of times. But as my car spun out of control I realized that there was time to pray, time to beg God to let me live, that there was so much I wanted to do.
I woke with that thought and immediately checked my phone. My friend had promised to send me a message about her son, who was having the operation even as I went to bed to rest last night and long past the time I’d fallen asleep. They fixed his leg and his jaw; the prognosis very good – but still long and hard for such a little boy. In many ways, her son is like Elie – or as Elie was 12 years ago. He’s so bright and energetic and sweet. He can be a tyrant when he wants his way and it is hard for my friend, but there is such sweetness inside of him. Elie was like that. It seems amazing to write this now, but Elie was the hardest of my children – right from birth until…oh, about a year ago.
So, in the middle of the night, I thought of my friend sitting by her son and I thought of Elie and I realized that there are such blessings in a son. It’s a long haul, from birth to 20 years, filled with so many things – the wonders, the growth, the worries and fears – but most of all, there is the joy. The simple joy of looking at him and saying -God, how you have blesssed me with this boy. There are no words that can express the gratitude.
May God send a speedy and complete recovery to Chaim Zvi ben Henya Devra. Please keep him in your prayers.