Our second son starts the army today. And you would think that things get easier, that we adjust, that we know what to expect after doing this once.
But it doesn’t get easier. And I’m not sure it will with the subsequent kids either. Perhaps it’s because it’s been an incredibly painful process and so different from the experience the first time. Perhaps it’s because we haven’t really had time to process and relish and celebrate. Perhaps.
Or perhaps it’s because he’s been home now for many weeks, after meeting us in Venice and spending a week there together. And I’ve gotten very used to having him back in the house with his easy banter and his sweet, giving personality after so many years where he split time between home and school.
Perhaps it’s because I remember selecting his name at this time of year 21 years ago. And feeling incredibly at peace knowing we were naming him for the original Yehuda; and hoping that he would exhibit similar traits of brotherly love, devotion, commitment and honor. Thank Gd our dreams on that front have been wildly exceeded by this amazing young man.
Perhaps it’s because I picture the little blond, thumb sucking two-year-old who boarded the plane so many years ago, bound for a new life. The gorgeous little boy who fell asleep only in the last hour of the flight and who I carried off fast asleep in my arms while I juggled a lifetime of bags and a baby on the way.
Maybe it’s that I picture the not-yet-3-year-old who was thrown into a completely Hebrew speaking daycare without a word of the language, and who waved goodbye each day and smiled when we picked him up. And who made friends so quickly, mostly with kids with whom he still intensely shares his life.
It could be that picture I have of him bursting with excitement, wearing the Bnei Akiva shirt for the first time; going to his first bar mitzvah party; setting up a tent at Givat Oz V’gaon that first summer when we slept there frequently as it was being developed; representing the country in an Israeli basketball jersey as he traveled with a team to the States. It could be the picture I have of him graduating from high school on some mountain in Eilat during those COVID days when we couldn’t have a ceremony, the picture the proof that I had of the diplomas and hugs meted out that day in the desert.
I think about how this beautiful soul fasts on Yom Hazikaron (Israeli Memorial Day) to connect with the loss our country and our people have experienced. How deeply and passionately he is committed to his country and how much he hopes to express that in his army service.
I see his Maccabi health card sitting on the table, used for the last time for many years. As of today, he will no longer belong to me in the way he has up until now. He will always be mine, and our family’s, of course. But he will now belong to his country and his people and its army and this will be his first obligation. We hope and pray that they will take care of him and love him the way we have for over 20 years.