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Elie Came Home from War...and Now from Base

By Paula Stern
1/21/2010, 12:00 AM
Elie Came Home from War...and Now from Base
I started a few weeks ago reading again over the entries I had made during the Gaza War. Day by day, I looked back, slowly remembering what it was like. I was looking forward to this day, when I would read the entries about the war being over...and then I got distracted by the tragedy in Haiti and the amazing response from Israel and from around the world.

And tonight, as I was about to close down, I thought back to the date...a year...exactly a year ago, Elie came home from the war...and tonight...he came home from base. A year ago, I couldn't imagine anything beyond seeing him, hugging him, having him finally back at home, safe in his bed. That came true and again tonight, as he told me to leave him a list and the credit card, drank from the bottle (yeah, I can't get him to break that habit) and went to bed, I am grateful yet again. We are so close to the end of this journey...day by day, we feel it growing closer even as I know that as his journey ends, my next journey begins.

But I learned three years ago to take this each day, one day at a time. That's what I did at the beginning; that's what I did when Elie was at war; and that's what I will do now.

It is so easy, with him home safe, to look back...one last look - at what your heart feels when your son is in danger, your country at war.

    Elie called in the early afternoon, "Can you pick me up?"

    I was in the mall shopping for shoes for my daughter and for me. Suddenly, all things became so silly. I had no patience for shoes, though we found them - Elie was coming home!

    I dropped my two younger kids at home, grabbed brownies and the special tuna-corn pancakes that Elie loves, a bottle of ice tea and some cups - and drove. I didn't take a map; didn't have the GPS from the other car. I know the general way - I'll wing it if I have to.

    Enough gas - another delay avoided. Drive...drive and don't think. Drive and enjoy.

    "How much longer?" Elie called at one point.

    "Another 30-40 minutes at most, I think." I told him at one point.

    "I'm still inside. I'll try to get a ride out now," Elie told me. I wouldn't be allowed up to the cannons but would meet him at the same place I met him last time. He would try to find someone with a jeep to drive him to the meeting point.

    I took a wrong turn - drove twice as fast to get back to the right point. Called Elie when I got to the meeting point and he wasn't there. The parking lot where I had met him last time was empty. Before it was filled with cars of reservists who had been called to war. There were no buses - last time, there had been three - full of soldiers being moved to and from the front lines. There were no helicopters hovering overheard. But there were signs, "The people embrace our soldiers" and "You fight for our holy land" and simply "The people thank the fighters of Israel."

    "Drive down the road till you get to the military police blocking the back road." He told me - and I did, past the "Closed Military Zone" sign in Hebrew and in English. The atmosphere was relaxed. I pulled next to another set of parents whose son was now in the car. I smiled at the mother; she smiled at me. There are times words need not be said, and yet volumes have been exchanged.

    Elie was standing there with all of his backpacks. He filled the trunk, even put more in the backseat.

    "Want me to drive?" he asked.

    That's man-talk for "I want to drive" or "Can I drive?"

    I countered with, "do you want to?" which was kind of unnecessary because he was already moving to the driver's door. I figured the least I could get out of it was a hug. I asked if he wanted something to eat or drink. He took the ice tea. I won't tell you about him drinking straight from the bottle or that I couldn't bring myself to even complain about it. We'll pretend it never happened.

    "Do you want some brownies?" I asked him.

    "Later," he said. "I just ate."

    I offered the military police brownies before leaving. And as we drove home...or he did, we talked and talked and talked.


If I tell you what I did tonight, you won't believe me, but I'll write it anyway. Tonight, I was at the mall buying shoes for my younger children and me; I really was. Tonight, Elie came home, drank from the bottle of ice tea...and went to sleep.

Of all blessings that we have in life, one we sometimes forget to recognize is the simplest of all blessings - to have your child at peace, asleep in his bed, safe from all who would harm him.

May God bless the children of Israel...of Haiti...of America...of all the nations and all the places in the world - with a warm bed, food to eat, something to drink.

May God bless the army of Israel who protected our people last year, last month, last night and today - and may God bless our doctors, medical teams, and soldiers who are so far from home trying to help the people of Haiti.