He Ain’t Heavy
Within the next thirty six hours, I have three events to attend: Tonight is my Aunt Bonnie’s eighth (geez, eighth? Really?) Yartzheit. Then tomorrow morning, Aaron will receive his camouflage beret, after completing his advanced training in the Kfir infantry unit. And tomorrow night is Dena’s bachelorette party.
It has been my experience that in life, it’s either feast or famine. You’re either tearing your hair out from boredom, because nothing happens at all, or you can’t breathe due to the sheer velocity of everything happening exactly at once.
These past days I’ve been futilely trying to find a common thread between these three events. That’s me, always seeking symbolism and interconnectivity in places where likely none can be found. If anything, the only connection between these events is actually their stark contrast, at least between the bookends: Tonight we commemorate a life that ended far too early, and tomorrow night we celebrate an upcoming wedding, the continuity of love and life, a new family being formed.
And I guess Aaron’s ceremony stands in the balance. After this weekend he’ll ship off to Hebron, that city of twenty-four-seven turmoil, where everyone’s looking for trouble, where every step is a question of life and death. My family and I are, in a word, freakingthefuckout.
The following will be part prayer, part reminder, part introduction. A prayer and a reminder that You, God, know who’s risking his life for his country. And an introduction to all the assholes in that once holy city, now desecrated constantly by unjustifiable violence: Think twice about throwing a rock or burning a tire or whatever other foul idea sneaks into your head; this is a kid who’s here to keep you safe.
This is Aaron. Who is known to the neighborhood as “ARON NACHUM!”
In caps lock. In a father’s shout, heard whenever the two went to shul and the three year old child was lagging behind.
This is Aaron. Boyo. That nickname that just stuck, despite all his begging that we stop.
This is Aaron. Who, growing up, when his dad was away for six months of the year, had three mothers, all nagging at him incessantly.
This is Aaron. Who fell asleep in Aunt Jackie’s car pinching his nose closed, after his first visit to a Kibbutz.
This is Aaron. Who’d spend every recess in elementary school exercising his thumbs on his Gameboy, while all his peers ran around the soccer field.
This is Aaron. Who loved math from an early age, and knew in sixth grade that for ninth he’d go to Machon Lev, and finish a degree in computer science by the age of nineteen.
This is Aaron. Who by the age of thirteen already was shaving, and towered over his friends in his bar mitzvah photos.
This is Aaron. Who refused to shower after tennis, because he “didn’t sweat.”
This is Aaron. Who can belt out all the lyrics to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and anything by Blues Traveler at breakneck speed.
This is Aaron. Who introduces me to the best YouTube channels.
This is Aaron. Who, every Friday, without fail, calls his grandparents on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, to wish them a Shabbat Shalom.
This is Aaron. Who spent hours on his guitar perfecting the intro to “Crossroads” and the solo in “Sultans of Swing”.
This is Aaron, who on some Purims at eleven a.m., would read the megilah for all us lazy girls in the neighborhood, who didn’t feel like joining the ruckus in shul.
This is Aaron. Who on other Purims, when we weren’t together, would call me drunk, and wish me brachot, and tell me Carlebach stories.
This is Aaron. Who will be showered and dressed three hours before Shabbat, then close the door and play Hassidic tunes until it is time to leave.
This is Aaron. Who can find the appropriate Seinfeld quote for any given moment.
This is Aaron. Who, on the subway, took out his Tikkun, and started leining to the puzzled looks of his fellow passengers.
This is Aaron, who on Erev Yom Kippur, came crying to my room, with genuine remorse about how distant he sometimes can be.
This is Aaron. Who I love to pieces.
This is Aaron. Who’s giggle is the sound of heaven itself.
There’s this home video of the three of us, still in Oceanside. Erika is watching TV. Aaron’s a baby, minding his own business in his swing. And I prance over there, and start kissing him, torturing him, not letting him be. From behind the camera, Mommy says, “Amanda! Leave him alone! Just you wait. When he’s older, he’s gonna be much bigger than you, and then he’ll beat you up.”
He never did.
And now he’ll be going to Hebron, where he’ll have three other mothers there to protect him. Please God, keep him safe.