An of­fi­cer and a hus­band

The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - OBSERVATIONS - HERB KEINON

My youngest son, who goes by the moniker The Youngest, got mar­ried last night. Though these words, be­cause of dead­lines, were writ­ten be­fore the event, it was surely a joy­ous af­fair. The bride wore white and looked ab­so­lutely re­splen­dent. The groom wore a blue vest and looked like a black­jack dealer in a white kippa. The par­ents on both sides were bub­bling over with joy. Just bub­bling.

The Youngest is the sec­ond of our four chil­dren to get mar­ried, fol­low­ing his brother Skippy by 18 months. And, like Skippy, he is get­ting mar­ried while still in the IDF.

But while Skippy got mar­ried with a lit­tle over a year left in his ser­vice in a spe­cial IDF unit, The Youngest is get­ting mar­ried in the mid­dle of an of­fi­cers train­ing course, mean­ing he has at least an­other 20 months to serve in his elite unit.

OK boys, you can stop com­pet­ing now!

IT’S ALL won­der­ful but not ex­actly how I fig­ured it would turn out. Like all par­ents, I had cer­tain time-line ex­pec­ta­tions for my chil­dren. They were, of course, dif­fer­ent from the timelife ex­pec­ta­tions I had for my­self grow­ing up in the US: high school, col­lege, job, mar­riage, kids.

But when aliyah turned that all up­side down, I knew the time­line would be dif­fer­ent for my off­spring – and ad­justed my think­ing ac­cord­ingly: high school, yeshiva/mechina, IDF/Na­tional Ser­vice, In­dia, col­lege, mar­riage, job, kids.

It all seemed so log­i­cal.

But life in­ter­venes, and the kids come at you with their own de­sires, hopes, dreams and ideas. And faced with all of those, as a par­ent you have a few op­tions: fight tooth and nail, and lose ’cause the kid’s gonna do what the kid’s gonna do; use gen­tle per­sua­sion, and lose ’cause the kid’s gonna do what the kid’s gonna do; or – if you trust the kid’s in­stincts – say “I trust your in­stincts.” I trust The Youngest’s in­stincts.

On paper get­ting mar­ried while in the army does not look like the smartest way to be­gin mar­ried life. All things be­ing equal, mar­ried life is no small ad­just­ment. You have to change your life­style, get used to each other and take some­one else into ac­count in your ba­sic, ev­ery­day de­ci­sion-mak­ing process. That takes time and hard work.

But I look at things from the point of view of some­one who grew up in the US with the idea that you do things in seg­ments. First col­lege – fo­cus on col­lege. Then job – fo­cus on job. Then mar­riage and kids – fo­cus on that. Don’t mix ev­ery­thing up.

But what has im­pressed me so much about Is­raelis over the years is their abil­ity to do ex­actly that – mix things up, com­bine and jug­gle adroitly more than one sig­nif­i­cant ball at a time.

They can go to univer­sity and hold down a de­mand­ing job. They can go to univer­sity and have kids. They can go to univer­sity, hold down a de­mand­ing job and have kids.

And they can serve in se­ri­ous and gru­el­ing army units and get mar­ried.

It can work; I saw it with Skippy.

Is it easy? No. Is it ideal? No. Is the IDF ac­com­mo­dat­ing? Yes. Does it help if the young cou­ple lives near the bride’s par­ents? Yes, very much so.

THAT LAST bit, about think­ing it a good idea for the new­ly­weds to live near the bride’s par­ents, is some­thing I never thought I’d say, an­other ex­am­ple of life here flip­ping some of my pre­con­ceived no­tions on their head.

I al­ways be­lieved – and had it ham­mered into me by my own par­ents – that this is not a good idea: a young cou­ple needs space, and should not be so close to ei­ther side’s par­ents that at the first sign of trou­ble one side has the abil­ity to run back home. Space is good, my par­ents told me.

I took that to heart and put 12,000 kilo­me­ters of space be­tween us.

“Not that much space,” my dad said.

But it’s dif­fer­ent in the army.

If the new groom is home only on week­ends, it’s good that the bride is close to her par­ents’ home, and – when her hus­band is not around – has the com­pany and sup­port of her par­ents and sib­lings, if needed. The new­ly­weds can move away from the bride’s par­ents when The Youngest fin­ishes his tour of duty – just not, of course, 12,000 kilo­me­ters away.

NOT ONLY do I trust The Youngest’s in­stincts, I am also very proud of his de­ci­sions. He could have got­ten mar­ried, fin­ished his reg­u­lar army duty and in an­other 10 months been done with the IDF. But he wanted to be an of­fi­cer, he wanted to give his most to the army.

My mind is wired dif­fer­ently. My re­flexes would have told me to do one thing or the other. Mar­riage or army.

But The Youngest grew up here, not in Den­ver. He grew up in an en­vi­ron­ment that in­cul­cated him with the idea that both things are ex­tremely im­por­tant – fam­ily and army – and that they need not be mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive. Not ev­ery­thing has to be so com­part­men­tal­ized.

He also grew up see­ing ex­am­ples of peo­ple able to han­dle both.

“Nizrom” (we’ll go with the flow), this par­tic­u­lar son al­ways used to tell me as a teenager. It was his life’s motto, and one that used to drive me nuts. Not ev­ery­thing has to be done by the book, he would say, crit­i­cal of the way I op­er­ate, call­ing me “too Ashke­nazi.” Not ev­ery­thing has to be per­fectly planned out, over­thought.

Luck­ily – but ob­vi­ously not by co­in­ci­dence – he found a wife who shares both his ideals and his way of think­ing.

His de­ci­sion to get mar­ried – some­thing he very much wanted to do – and be­come an of­fi­cer, some­thing else he very much wanted to do, is a tes­ta­ment to this go-with-the-flow abil­ity. It is also a tes­ta­ment to his bride’s abil­ity to do the same. I now find this less an irk­some char­ac­ter­is­tic and ac­tu­ally an ad­mirable one.

Any­way, they as­sure me, it’s only an­other 20 months. Nizrom.

What has im­pressed me so much about Is­raelis over the years is their abil­ity to... mix things up, com­bine, and jug­gle adroitly more than one sig­nif­i­cant ball at a time

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