Last night, at the very end of my day – already close to midnight, I headed home, stopping by my daughter’s house to pick up the car seat for the baby. There in the quiet of the middle of the night, knowing I’d have to be up in six hours, I had a short talk with my son-in-law. He is a very special person in so many ways, more than I could ever explain without my eyes filling with tears. I’m so blessed to have him – well yes, my daughter has him, but he has her and together, they have each other. For a mother to see that…is beyond words. After two years, he finishes the army this week, returns his uniform and will be free to do what he wants, when he wants. It hasn’t sunk in yet, he told me.
I told him that it was good he had served and how it is good for a son to have a father who has gone through the army. Elie didn’t have that – what he brought to us, the stories, the process, the problems – were all new. My husband listened but couldn’t offer his own opinions, advice, army stories of his own. Each thing that happened to Elie was a discovery for us, an unknown, a path never traveled by any of us. It was easier for Shmulik and Chaim because they had Elie to guide them, advise them. Where a parent might call a commanding officer, Elie has taken that role if it was needed; Elie answers the questions, explains.
So when my grandson gets to that age, I said, if he serves in the army, Haim will be able to guide him, to share from the side of knowing. Haim is happy he served, enriched in many ways by the experience. There is a lot that is good about the army, he told me, but he looked down and around when I mentioned his son serving. It is years and years away – his son, my amazingly special grandson, is just a baby.
When you get to be my age, you understand how fast time goes – when your first is just a young toddler, it seems the future is ages away. And then Haim told me something I had forgotten, something friends of mine had told me when their son went into the army.
“It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” my friend said. “We served so that he wouldn’t have to.”
My son-in-law wants to believe in a future in which there will be peace and no reason for his toddler to ever grow into a soldier. He served so that his son wouldn’t have to. I’d forgotten that. My son-in-law needs to believe that there will be no need for soldiers in another 18 or so years. Deep down, I want to believe that too, but there is this massive wall inside me that doesn’t believe.
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About the Author: Visit Paula Stern's blog, A Soldier's Mother.
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