I had a conversation with my second son yesterday. He’s almost 18 and contemplating what he will do next year. He wants to go into the army directly after high school; I want him to take a year and grow a little as a person. He’s very mature…as far as 17-year-olds go, but put him against the army…and the army will win. One year of preparation, one year of being told what the army will do and how it works makes a world of difference. They go in knowing what to expect. It is better for them…and for the army.
“I’ll worry less,” I explained to Shmulik. To which he explained that he isn’t going to do what Elie does.
“What do you mean?” I asked him, genuinely perplexed.
“Elie worries you. I’m not going to tell you anything.”
Suddenly, after writing all the things a son shouldn’t tell his mother, I was faced with an even worse possibility – the chance that I might have to worry about EVERYTHING.
“No, no!” I told him – “that’s even worse. At least with Elie, I know what to worry about.” And, I can quickly rationalize most of it away, write it away on the blog, or find someway, anyway, to take it more easily. I told him that I don’t mind worrying. I like worrying. I live to worry…no, please, don’t ever hold back what I need to worry about because then I’ll worry about everything and I truly will drive myself crazy!
I also think, deep down, that I like worrying because…there isn’t much more I can do. I no longer feed him; I barely do his laundry. I’m not there to soothe his anger (or even know if he is angry or lonely or down). I can’t advise him on much because he is doing and learning things I’ve never experienced. No, all I have to give is my love and my worry.
To some extent, I’m on standby as a mother until Elie calls. I give him “mother” doses when he needs it; try to leave him alone on weekends when he seems to need space. I answer the phone when he calls and try to figure out as quickly as possible if this is a call he feels he should make (like before the Sabbath) or it if is a call he needs to make (because he feels like talking or is bored). What does he need today? Very quickly, I have to assess whether he knows that he needs to talk…or the need is just inside him. Some calls, he doesn’t have anything to say, but he needs to hear – about home, about the family, about this other part of his world.
Shmulik is a very different kind of person than Elie – much more introverted, much quieter. Even if he would feel a need to call, he might not. He’s more difficult because you have to get inside his head and figure out what he needs, sometimes before he even knows it. When all my other children came crying over little bruises and hurts, Shmulik hid them quietly and with little fuss.
So when it is his turn to go to the army, I will likely worry about what I don’t hear about, rather than what I do hear. As for Elie, I think the worry comforts me in a strange way; it has become a companion, always with me. It’s a little ache deep in my heart, a little fear I carry with me. But what it does is make me feel a part of Elie with me all the time.
I’m also a news-aholic. I check what is happening several times a day. Today there was a news article titled, “IDF Soldiers Injured In Cannon Cleaning Accident” – my heart stopped, as it does whenever a soldier is hurt. I quickly checked the news. Cannons? Elie is with cannons…where??? I quickly scanned the article, once again forgetting that Israel is very careful about first informing families before letting such news hit the press (at least when it can). Today there was an explosion in Haifa on a naval base while soldiers were cleaning and servicing a cannon. Several soldiers were hurt, one severely. Not artitillery. Not in the south. Not a Commanders course. Not Elie.
A little while later one of my colleagues came in and asked, “Where’s Elie?”
“Not in Haifa,” I answered. “In the south.”
“It can be dangerous in the south too,” she said, thinking of the rockets and mortars that are sent against Israel every day (today more than 40 rockets were launched against Israel). Yes, it can be very dangerous in the south, but so far, Elie’s base seems to be beyond range of the currently used rockets and the chances of the Palestinians aiming for something located in the middle of no where seems remote when they’d rather aim for an Israeli city and try for a higher casualty toll.
As for today’s worry, Elie called me this morning. Or at least his phone called me. Once again, when I answered, I could hear talking in the background, but Elie didn’t answer when I spoke into the phone. Clearly, he had dialed my number by accident again. I was about to hang up the phone when I heard him cough once, and then again a few times. He was coughing last week and again the other day on the phone. If anything, his cough sounds worse today than yesterday.
The other day, I was worried about the cold weather. Today’s worry is his cough. I didn’t like the sound of it. This time, I welcomed the worry like a friend that I knew would see me through the next few years. Come, Worry, let’s send Elie a message and get him to smile. He doesn’t know that we know about his cough. Last time we spoke, Elie told me that he wasn’t feeling well and one day when it was cold and rainyhe got permission to miss the outdoor training. He said he was already feeling better.
And so, I pulled to the side of the road and quickly typed a text message into my phone, “Drink tea. Your cough sounds much worse. Oh, and you just called me by mistake. Love you.”