Years and years ago, when I was dating my future husband, we went into a store. It might have been a restaurant, it could have been a parking lot. I don’t recall, and it happened more than once. Something went wrong; someone treated us incorrectly. My future husband demanded the problem be fixed; the behavior corrected.
When the correction, whatever it was, wasn’t made, my husband got angry – really angry. I was young and his anger frightened me. It seemed, to some extent, out of proportion to what was happening. Would this man, if I ended up marrying him, be a wife-beater? Would he swing out of control? He argued his point without mercy and when the salesperson didn’t comply, he demanded to see the manager.
And, while we waited, me and my future husband who was so angry, he turned to me and winked. I stared at him and he gave me the sweetest of smiles. The manager returned, and my angry future husband argued his case until the manager apologized, the service was corrected and all was right with the world.
He explained that he was able to be angry, but it wasn’t directed at me. It was justified, in light of what had happened, and yet not out of control. I have always loved that about him – his ability to control and compartmentalize that anger that so frightens and yet demands attention.
Elie took a week of vacation from the army to help us move. If all had gone as planned, we would have moved during the beginning of the week and had time to organize and unpack but life is full of unknowns and this too is a lesson we all learn. So, Elie’s week off came and went. He helped us pack; he helped us prepare the new house, but we couldn’t actually do the big move until a few days after he went back to the army.
In the move, not all things were located in the new house as we needed. Boxes clearly marked went to other rooms and Elie’s desk – the one that had been in his old room and was to go to his new room, ended up at the foot of the stairs. The movers felt it didn’t need to be taken apart…only to find that it couldn’t go upstairs without being taken apart – or so they thought.
So the desk was one of the casualties of the move and since my husband and other children have been spending most of their time repairing the old house and removing things that were left behind in preparation to return it to its owner, Elie’s desk remained for the last two weeks here in the entryway.
Today, Elie decided to get angry about it. He and I had tried to lift it, but I’m simply not strong enough to handle my end of it and so he decided he would try to move it himself. My husband is the chief fixer in the family; Elie is a close second. As my husband has been busy emptying and fixing the other house, the closets here remain in pieces, having been disassembled for the move.
Elie’s desk presented him with a problem. He knew he couldn’t move it alone and he wasn’t 100% sure that if he managed to take it apart, that he’d manage to get it back together. And so, Elie threw a temper tantrum. Simple as that. He pushed boxes out of the way, said he was going to take it apart or break it and who cares.
I looked at this 22-year-old, commander in the artillery forces in the army of the State of Israel and thought – this is the boy who entered the army. I was even a bit scared – he’s a lot stronger now. He’s not the 7-year-old boy that I could physically restrain while he would shout and cry and wave his arms, and he wasn’t the Commander I’ve been dealing with for so many months now.
My husband came downstairs when I called him, anxious to have him talk to Elie and reason how to get the desk upstairs. His middle brother came down and saw how angry Elie was, “the army’s done him a lot of good,” Shmulik quipped.
My husband started measuring; Shmulik went upstairs to clear a path to Elie’s room, and Elie came into the kitchen and smiled at me and said, “now it will get done.”
I couldn’t believe it. It was his father’s smile, wide and happy and completely in control. The true victor in any argument is the one who can control his anger. Elie’s desk is now in his room – Elie and his brother managed to lift it up and around the turns in the staircase with some help and lots of guidance from my husband. And no one, except me, saw the smile on Elie’s face. I wonder if my other children will learn that from their father; I wonder if Elie’s future wife will realize what a gift that anger…and that control…can be.
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