Just One Phone Call

Yesterday was another horrible day in Israel, more terrorists, more innocent victims (may their memory be for a blessing), more sadness for those who are suffering, and really all of us, and more worrying about my kids.

My cell phone rang last night at 8:30 pm, it was an unknown Israeli number and it was 3:30 am in Israel. My heart was in my throat and I was already in tears when I answered. “Hello, Hello”, there was so much noise in the background, “Is this Stacie Stufflebeam” the voice said. I could barely get out the “yes”.  “Hi my name is…… and I’m doing fundraising for my yeshiva”, when I caught my breath I told him he scared me to death; Why, he asked. Because I have two sons in the Israeli army, and you’re calling me from Israel where it’s the middle of the night. Poor kid, he felt terrible; poor me, so did I. When I hung up, I cried, maybe from relief, maybe because this could have been a very different kind of call. And maybe because even if it’s not my sons, it’s someone else’s’ precious son — maybe even someone I know.

People often (ridiculously) ask us if we’re worried having sons in the IDF. I always answer, yes, of course, but I can’t think about it consciously otherwise I wouldn’t be able to function. Last night’s phone call showed me how close to the surface that worry really is.

Another of our sons just finished his three years of service in the Golani Brigade. We have more time to talk now and I’m starting to hear bits and pieces about his service, things I didn’t know before. He told me recently that after they draft, all the chayalim write a will. These 18- and 19-year-olds are writing their wills; I can’t think about it, I tuck this information far back in my head.  I always tell people that there’s no “mother approved” place for an IDF soldier to serve, especially one in a combat unit. Throughout my sons’ service, as they move from base to base, my kids tell me the areas that their units will be serving in. I know it’s their job and we’re incredibly proud of them, but still, it’s never someplace that I want them to be.  Even when I think I know exactly where they’re serving, that can change quickly, so when something happens I’m never completely confident that they’re safe – something else I tuck away. I know that my kids will read this and no doubt roll their eyes, they aren’t parents yet. They’ll say I’m being a worrier; they’re well trained to do their very important job of protecting Israel; they’re confident and know what they’re doing; and, most importantly, THEY know that they’re fine.  I recently saw a picture and caption about at son traveling around the world. Where ever he is he takes and sends a picture of himself with a sign that says “Mom, I’m fine” – if only it were that simple.

During Operation Protective Edge, one of our sons was still in advanced training. We assumed that only fully trained units would be deployed to Gaza, while units like our son’s would be tasked with guarding a border. We weren’t super worried when we didn’t hear from him; he doesn’t call us every day. And when we did talk to him we didn’t ask any questions and he didn’t volunteer any information. It was only when a friend whose son we knew was in Gaza mentioned that his son had seen ours that was when our bubble burst. No more illusions that he was far away from Gaza and no more sleeping at night for us either. That summer my heart stopped every time the phone rang and if I didn’t recognize the number then by the time I connected my heart was racing. I found out that “Worried Sick” is not just a saying, it’s a reality. During the war we did get one of those phone calls from an unknown Israeli number. As soon as I connected I heard my son’s voice, “I’m fine”, a reservist had come in and brought his phone, he gave it to all the chayalim to call their mothers, this is a Jewish army after all, I blessed that reservist, I’m sure he was a parent himself.

I haven’t thought about that phone call for a while, another thing tucked far away. But now I see that it only takes one call, one innocent call, to bring it all to the surface again.

About the Author
An ordinary Mom with extraordinary sons. Stacie Rojas Stufflebeam is a development director for a non-profit and the Mother of five sons, with four either currently serving or veterans in the IDF. She lives with her husband in the USA.
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