One of the most satisfying moments as a parent is when your children say something that you feel deeply but you know that they are their thoughts, their feelings. In sync with your feelings…but they are not voicing what you want to hear, but what they feel.
It was going to be a quiet weekend…I like having those sometimes. My oldest daughter and her husband were going to friends; Shmulik is on base. That leaves us at five…for me, a small weekend. I enjoy these quiet weekends when they come…and I’m philosophical enough to not mind when plans change…even at the last minute. On Thursday, my husband asked about inviting a man who lives in the neighborhood who was going to be alone this weekend…six.
Around 2:00 p.m., Chaim called and when I asked where he was, he gave me the best of all answers, “On my way to you soon, if that’s okay.” Each time he calls, I want to ask when he is coming “home.” Sometimes, I do a bit of dirty work and ask one of the kids to ask him so he won’t think I am pressuring him. More often, the kids do it without asking. They do it automatically because we really do love having him here.
So, my quiet weekend became more exciting, more energized, more family. Elie and Chaim get along very well – different than Yaakov and Elie, but still wonderful. Chaim has more patience for Davidi, my youngest son, than either Elie or Shmulik often do. We had planned on a simpler meal. When you have a soldier coming home, you want to make more food, more meat.
I had a package of steak in the freezer…that came out. Now that I had a way to send Shmulik some cake…and Chaim was coming so I would send with him too, I decided to bake brownies rather than skip desert completely (something I had planned to do before).
The brownies went into the oven; the steak went into the sauce. Chaim called me from the Central Bus Station – he brings me flowers each time, though I tell him he really doesn’t have to. This time I asked him to do me a favor. We aren’t alcohol drinkers…really, not at all. Yaakov came and taught us a bit about wines…or at least he tried. Chaim is the same. Both understand wines and beer…we just don’t.
The stores were closing soon and since I didn’t know he was coming, I had no beer in the house. I asked him to buy me some…it seems silly, but I would enjoy the Sabbath more knowing I had cold beer to offer him if he wanted it. He laughed but said he would try and showed up a while later with a six pack!
Later, after the meal, after it was quiet, we talked. It was nice to hear about army things, what he was learning, how they were treating him. He told me about a night on patrol a while ago. It was late at night and he was on guard duty on the Jordanian border – probably our quietest border. There he was in the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere. And he thought of his friends, others his age. They were “hanging out” while he was here in Israel, guarding the borders of the land he loves.
But most important, he was realizing what tremendous value life has, what a tremendous gift he has been given…and he is giving to this country. It reminded me of an article I read while Elie was in the army – it was about teenage habits of drinking, driving, etc. and I thought about how distant that life was from the one Elie was leading.
Yaakov, Elie – now Chaim and Shmulik took this time from their lives to do something important. I have known this all along, this tremendous sacrifice that they make at a time when had I not come to Israel, my sons would likely be like so many others their age. Perhaps not drinking and girls, but certainly not as mature, not as responsible.
Elie never voiced this feeling, though I hope he had it. Shmulik has not voiced it yet, but I hope someday he too will feel as Chaim did the other night. His description left me so proud.
“There I was,” he told me, and I could see him there. Wearing a protective vest, holding his M16, looking out towards Jordan with Israel at his back. I envy them this time, this pride, this knowledge that what they do is so important. They guard their families, those who love them and those they love. A short while after Chaim called, his mother called from the States to wish us a good weekend, a Shabbat shalom.
I hope she can feel the same pride in her son. She knows that we love him, that we consider him ours a bit too. I hope she can feel our pride and gratitude. I’ve only met two of her children so far – two more to go but already I know that she has raised them with the right values, the right love of home and homeland.