One afternoon when Elie was in the army in a dangerous place, I was nervous. There was nothing I could do and yet I was waiting for him to call me and tell me he was safe. It wan’t an operation, rather a period where he was on patrol. Shmulik asked me something and I explained that Elie had told me where he’d be. Shmulik responded that he was never going to tell me anything. I was horrified.
“That’s worse,” I told him. “Then I’ll be worried all the time.” I was convinced that Elie’s honesty was better because, as I explained to Shmulik, at least I knew when to worry. It made perfect sense at the time but now, well, now all you mothers of soldiers who thought it was a bit, well, weird, can have a good laugh. I’m laughing at myself. I was so sure I knew and in knowing, there was the peace of times to worry and times to be…well, at peace.
Turns out, Elie played me for all it was worth.
The day I asked him to call me when he was back on base, he told me that he wasn’t sure he’d make it back to base before the Sabbath came in. I told him that he should let me know, if he could, that he was back on base before, and if not, he should call me Saturday night. He was smart enough to know that I’d be sick with worry all Shabbat and so he called me moments before the Sabbath began to let me know he was safe on base.
The thing is, I find out now, he wasn’t. He was still in the midst of a violent Arab riot with a gun aimed at the demonstrators and as they threw rocks at the soldiers, Elie was there. But he didn’t want me to worry and so he simply called me and told me what I wanted to hear. And I fell for it completely.
There were other times, he laughs now at the memory, when he told me what I wanted, what I needed to hear. “Didn’t you wonder?” he says with a smile.
“No,” I answer honestly and then give back the truest of answers. “I guess I needed to believe.”
What amazes me, beyond my own naivete at the time, was his understanding this before me, his maturity in making the decision to lie and give me peace. Certainly, there were times he couldn’t tell me for operational reasons, and yet, he could have told me less. Conversely, less information, as I explained to Shmulik, would have led to much greater worrying. Elie gave me enough to worry…and enough to relieve that worry.
The longer he is out of the army, the easier it is for him to talk about things he did in general terms. There are no dates, no exact places. Military experts and our enemies need this information, not mothers. It is interesting to watch Elie share this information. It isn’t about bragging. He’s not doing that. It isn’t in his tone of voice or his mannerism. It’s about giving a mother a dose of truth, knowing that now that he is out of the army and safe, I can handle what I couldn’t handle then and, in doing this…and knowing he’s home safe, he is “toughening” me for the future.
My heart still jumps a bit. I’ll give one example in the next post – and then I settle. He’s safe, after all, home with us and sharing that part of his life he couldn’t share before.
A mother’s dose of truth – another of the lessons I learn as a soldier’s mother, long after the time I’d thought I’d learned it all. And I can see all you mothers (and fathers and wives and husbands) of soldiers smiling and wondering how I didn’t sense it all as it was happening. I guess my mind knew what Elie had already guessed…my heart couldn’t take it at the time.
I can’t retroactively worry now, can I? He’s home, he’s safe. He was in danger…but that’s what he was required to do, that was his job, his service. And in these two elements it all comes together – he was a soldier; I was his mother. He is, for all that he’s out of the army, still a soldier; I am still his mother.