I did it again – I stole time.
Yesterday morning, Elie called as I was just leaving home. A few days ago, he’d confirmed that he would be coming home this weekend and expected to arrive in the late evening. I was surprised to see his number and quickly answered. I could hear in his voice a bit of frustration, a bit of anger, and, perhaps, even a bit of sadness. It was this last one, more than the others, that called out to me.
“I missed the bus,” he told me. Actually, he hadn’t. He’d skipped the bus because after all the other regular soldiers got on, the bus was full and he didn’t feel it was right that he board a bus and leave someone else behind.
“When is the next one?” I asked as I made the right turn towards Jerusalem.
“I don’t know,” he answered, “maybe 3 or 4 in the afternoon.”
I know where he is – he’s far up north in the Golan, on a road that is little traveled by ordinary cars and anyway, by army law, he isn’t allowed to accept a ride from someone he doesn’t know.
“What can you do?” I asked.
“I’ll wait by the gate and see if I can catch another ride from someone who’s leaving.”
“Want me to come get you?” I asked, quickly recalculating my schedule. It was around 8:00 a.m., a drive up north would take me the better part of three hours…that’s 11:00 a.m, a quick grab and turn and I’d be back before 2:00 – maybe faster. Meeting at 3:00 p.m. – international teleconference; can’t be late…I could do it. Just.
“You don’t have to,” and there was that voice for which I’d travel to the ends of the earth. My oldest daughter had once called me when she was very young. She’d been sleeping over at a friend’s house and they’d been talking until late in the night. The rest of the family had gone to sleep; my daughter and her friend were finally ready to end their long conversations. The friend told my daughter to close the light and as my daughter wasn’t familiar with the light, she ended up burning her hand on the hot light bulb.
Her friend was afraid to awaken her parents, lest they find out how late the girls had been chatting. My daughter called me and I went over and brought her home. Years and years later, my daughter told me that she was glad that I had come, that she’d been frightened, and that my going over there in the middle of the night gave her the feeling that I’d travel to the ends of the world for her – she was right, even though I only had to make a five minute drive.
After she told me this, I realized this is what I want all my children to feel, what I felt from my mother when I was growing up. And so, I continued past the turnoff to Jerusalem, down the highway towards the Dead Sea, to hook up with the Jordan Valley highway that races north to the Sea of Galilee, Tiberias, and onwards to Elie.
He was able to catch a ride with an army vehicle to bring him down off the Golan Heights and into the northern Galilee region, saving me about 30 minutes. He was tired when I got to him, only having slept about 4 hours the night before.
I had stopped by the mall in the morning to drop off a bank deposit and as I passed the bakery, I saw the chocolate pastries Elie loves, the onion rolls he often buys himself. I bought a few of them and had them in the car so that in the evening, when he was supposed to come home, he’d have them.
I offered it to him in the car as we began the drive home. A religious Jew washes his hands before eating bread. It’s a healthy thing to do anyway, to wash before eating, but it takes on even more meaning as part of our religion. I had a bottle of water and offered to pull to the side of the road so he could wash.
“No reason,” Elie said as he lowered the window. He was going to wash outside the window while I was driving a good 90 km. per hour. Now, there are laws of wind and laws of man and laws of God. Laws of God tell us to wash our hands; laws of man don’t care so long as you drive within the speed limits and keep your hands on the wheel. Since I was driving, the laws of man didn’t apply. Now the laws of wind are interesting. They say that when you are speeding along, the wind will carry a bulk of that water…right back onto the car and Elie’s shoulder.
Elie laughed as he got soaked a bit; I laughed as I heard him laugh. Elie bit into the onion roll, devoured it, and ate another. He was heading home and after two weeks away, that’s all that mattered. His being tired slipped away; his hunger was appeased. We talked almost the whole way home – of many things, of training, of war, of plans after the army and plans in the army, of friends he has, responsibilities he carries.
He’s out doing the shopping now as we prepare for the Sabbath.
“It’s settled, at least for now,” Elie told me on the ride home.
“What’s settled?” I asked him.
“I won’t be home again for three weeks, well two and a half, anyway,” he answered.
“The seder? You’ll be home for the seder?” I asked.
“Looks that way,” Elie answered.
You can’t imagine the joy I carried with me as I raced down south…again. To the ends of the world, or at least the country, I would go for my children…and right back home again!