I wrote once, long ago, of how having a son in the army changed your relationship and part of being a parent is accepting that relationship and going with the flow of it. One of the things I noticed early on was that I was more aware of the ache inside me when my sons were not home. When you first have a child, you are still connected to them in many ways. You feel, sometimes before they even let you know, that they are hungry or they need you.
Over time, the incredible connection that began when they were within you stretches. At first, you are with them almost 24 hours a day; slowly it becomes less intense. They learn to crawl, to walk, to run. They go to school and friends and you become two human beings – there’s a connection, of course, but you don’t feel them as deeply as you did before.
Hours can go where you concentrate on other people and other things. It was a shock to me, initially, to find that after Elie went into the army, a part of my heart and brain remained engaged with his well being. What I mean is, it was like a dull nerve always being pressed. I was constantly aware that he was out of reach, out of contact.
Though there were times he was in more danger than others, that feeling of connection, of worry, never went away unless he was at home. Only then did I feel that I could turn my phone off over the weekend, sleep deeply etc.
When Shmulik left the army, I thought that I had finally earned a full night’s sleep; peace in the heart and mind and soul. When Elie went into the Reserves, here and there, the connection didn’t come back and I thought maybe I’d moved past it, come to terms with this army thing.
When Shmulik married last year and Elie married this year, I accepted that my relationship with my sons has changed. Each has a wife that needs to take priority in their attention. Sure, I’m still their mother, but it’s a background position.
Moments after Elie left last night, I knew that he hadn’t really left. I feel that ache deep inside, that feeling that he’s missing and I can’t be complete without him home – even knowing that that home isn’t really mine anymore. His home is his apartment with Lauren and she’s missing him and worried and going through so much and more of what I feel.
At one point, half joking, and half not, I said to Amira, “I don’t want to do this again. It wasn’t fun the first time.” I think we both laughed but the truth is that I don’t want to do this. I don’t want him to go to war. I don’t want him there. I just don’t want it.
And the second truth is that this is going to happen. I finally spoke to Elie hours after Shabbat had ended. I was so grateful for the call. I had expected to hear about him from Lauren (and he called her hours ago and she was wonderful and called me right away). It was so nice of him to call me too – I’d needed it more than he’ll ever know.
He’s still on a base, waiting to be moved south; still preparing. The Israeli air force has done a tremendous job of laying the foundations of the ground invasion that is to come. No nation can withstand hundreds of rockets being fired at its cities. Hamas chose this battle and Elie and so many others from this neighborhood and throughout Israel are preparing, at this very moment, to respond to that call to battle.
It will not be easy. It will not be short but maybe this time the leaders of Israel will realize that we have no choice but to finish what was started 4 years ago.