We’ve been going for long walks on the beach almost every day You attached to me in the Baby Bjorn It’s noisy with cars, but we walk as far into the bush as we can, to get away from the … Continue reading
I hate being away from you Yoni. I like to see the world but I hate being away from you.
When I do travel abroad I am reminded just how big a place the world is and how small we are within it.
There are some cities in the world that are truly gigantic.
And not just big in terms of their physical size [just like there are giant people who are physically small]
Here I mean that these cities are big in other ways too: there are big things going on in them; they are magnets for all the people in the world.
When you visit them you can see the faces, shapes and colors of visitors from many different countries and you can hear their different languages.
On a clear day, you can look up to the sky and see planes coming and going constantly – that’s also the sign of an important city.
Of course I’m speaking about New York and London
The buildings, the people, the history of these two places is immense
They have both produced many giants, in industry, politics, literature, in everything
This last time in London I was anxious and fearful before a speech I had to give to some very important people, giants in their fields really.
I am fearful of public speaking, and the moment weighed on me heavily all throughout my visit
I find the key to having to do something you fear doing is to prepare for it very well.
Don’t do anything in half-measures son; don’t leave things in your preparation undone – they will come to haunt you at the very moment you need them most.
Still, even with all the preparation in the world, the moment you have to step up and play your part is always scary.
When the moment came, I stood up when my name was called, took one last look at the picture of you that Your Mother had sent,
And walked up to the podium and gave my talk. Remember son, things are never as bad as you imagine them to be.
The photo of you standing in your cot and smiling gave me courage. I gave my speech, and forgot about the fear I had felt for the past 3 days.
You give me courage Yoni, because as long as I am your father there is nothing more important for me to do,
Whatever I’m doing at the moment lasts only until I come back to you,
As long as I am your father there is no place more important I need to be, nowhere else I’d rather be.
As long as I am your father I am a giant
As long as I am your father I will face my fear a little more easily,
That’s not to mean that I will be fearless; beware of being fearless, and beware of men who say they are fearless – they are actually reckless.
As I’ve written for you here before, fear is healthy, it is natural, you must feel its presence, acknowledge it, and face it – do not deny it
And once you prepare what you need to prepare, and once you face your fear, and do what you need to do, you will grow as a man.
And then you will realize, son, what everyone around you can already see: that you are already a giant.
Yoni you’re such a little ‘man’.
You like to sleep on your stomach and bury your head in your blanket – effective, but not very elegant.
Sometimes you sleep on your back , your arms above you like a boxing champ.
And often now, as you sleep, you put your leg over the cot’s rail or through its bars, like you own the place.
You like to eat at your set times, and you don’t like us to be late with your food.
You fart wherever and whenever the feeling takes you.
Sometimes you wear your nappies halfway down your bum and crawl around the lounge – what do you think the neighbours are saying? That our child is a wildechaye? Let them stare. Let them talk.
I’ve even heard rumours that you started up with a girl three months your senior. Heard you touched her leg…
You overturn your toy basket.
You tear up the newspapers, and you eat your books.
You puke and move on, no big deal. Not like your father. When I puke, I can’t move on, I’m a wreck.
You poo, puke, and pee on me. Me!! I’m ten times your size! Are you not afraid? Are you not trembling?
Actually, you love to be frightened. It makes you laugh.
You can’t talk yet, but you’re very clear with what you want and how you go about telling us you want it. More than we’ve figured you out, you’ve figured us out.
But don’t get ahead of yourself little one. You’ll have plenty of time to be a man. Now is the time to be a baby.
When you show us that you want to be held, we know you are still our baby.
When you hold onto us when we hug you, cheek to cheek, and you let out a deep sigh, you are our little boy.
So yes, you’re still a baby, but there is definitely a little ‘man’ inside you. We can see him.
Now that there are two men in the house, you think Your Mother can handle it?
Yoni, it’s been almost two weeks since you left for South Africa with Your Mother. And while you’re having the time of your life over there in Johannesburg, spending time with your Ma, meeting your cousins, and aunties, and great grandparents – I’m here alone, suffering without you.
You’ll be gone another whole two weeks. I’m not sure I can wait that long.
Your Mother puts you in front of the iPad every day, and I talk to you; you hear my voice and look for me around the room. It’s funny, and very sad at the same time. One day you will know what it is to laugh and cry at the same time.
I miss you terribly.
This has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to bare, being away from you for so long.
I sent you a song today, for Your Mother to play to you. I looked out the window and imagined us both listening to it at the same time.
Did she play it to you? I hope so. She usually does what I ask her to do. Keep an eye on that for me ok.
Here’s the song, it’s called Hear My Voice.
The first time I heard it, it came from outer space – it was being played in a space station to a hero of mine. I’ll tell you about him one day.
Here are the words, it’s the message I’m sending you, my beautiful boy.
Do you hear my voice
My faraway one?
Do you hear my voice
Wherever you may be?
A voice calls out to you with courage
A voice cries out in my blood
And beyond the bounds of time
Commands a blessing
This world is vast
And its paths are many
They meet in fleeting moments
And they part for eternity
A person wishes it
But his legs cannot
He cannot find
That which he has lost
Til the end of my days
I will wait for you
Until there is still life in me
I love you. See you soon.
I’m having a crisis of faith about our country Yoni. It’s a beautiful and special place. A miracle really. But it comes at a terrible cost. It’s had its ups and downs, but now things seem different to me.
I just don’t think things are going to improve here. I’m willing to wager that by the time you read this, and are old and wise enough to understand what’s written here, things will still be the same. And it doesn’t matter which government is in power. That’s the sad thing. The system is broken and there isn’t the will amongst the people to fix it. I mean, there is a will, everyone here thinks he knows how to fix ‘the problems’ – but this country feels to me like it is beyond repair right now. The people are tired, easily distracted by their daily struggles. I think that, at best, our country will limp along, from one crisis to another, from one elated victory to morose defeat, up and down, up and down, again and again – for a very long time. Tension and release, tension and release – only it gets more tense between each cycle.
Internally, this country is coming apart at the seams like never before. Externally, our neighbors, far from coming to accept our existence here, are becoming even more hateful of us. They hate us beyond all comprehension – a violent, terrible hate.
There is so much talk of war here now. There’s always been war here, and in between, talk of war, but it’s different this time, bigger, more threatening, more existential.
To live a normal life here we’ll have to fight forever. We’ll have to fight against each other [there are many Israelis who see themselves outside of our state, its laws, and its norms] and we’ll have to fight against our neighbors.
And I don’t want to condemn you to a life of endless wars.
I hear how some people talk here: “My grandson, he’s going to be a General for sure, or at least a Colonel.”
You know what Yoni? I don’t want you to grow up to be a General or a Colonel, or a Sargent Major or even a Captain. You might want to be these things some day, but I don’t want these things for you. I don’t want you to be a pawn. And I don’t want you to be a hero. I want you to live a long and happy life. I’d much rather you be a historian, a sculptor, a singer, a poet, a builder, or even a computer programmer [yuck]. Anything but a soldier. God forbid you become a warrior. A soldier is bad enough, but a warrior is worse.
I worry that you’ll want to become a warrior. You’re strong, independent, curious, and stout – all these things I can already tell about you.
So how do I get you out of this black hole, that sucks in boy after boy after boy? And is it even the right thing to do? And what’s to say that, even if I do manage to get you out, that you won’t go back in of your own accord, much as I did?
I’m sorry if I’m scaring you. You’re way too young to think about these things; but I look at you now, tiny little man, and I can’t imagine you as a grownup. What kind of man will you grow up to be? In this country, young men want to become warriors. They are encouraged to want to become warriors.
What would you do if you were me?
We’ve just started giving you solid food – real food, not the baby powder and breast milk you’ve been eating all this time. So far you’ve had pulped carrot and some porridge. Both of these are natural things.
Now food can be great, and it can also be dangerous and complicated. But if you follow these simple rules, you should be able to cut through all the confusion and eat healthy. Remember what the ancient Greeks said: A healthy body in a healthy mind, and I always add, the other way round too.
What’s more, you don’t have the best genes when it comes to cholesterol, blood sugar, and central [abdominal] fat – at least on your father’s side of the family. So food is doubly important for you.
Think of food and eating as one of the most important things you do in your life. Don’t make it an afterthought, but keep it in the front of your mind at all times.
Food is basically minerals – once you eat it, ingest it, it breaks down into minerals, first in your mouth, and then in your stomach. Natural food is made up of minerals – from the earth and the sea. Processed [man-made] food is made up of chemicals in factories. Choose natural foods as much as you can. They are from the earth and sea, like you are.
Don’t eat and drink at the same time, it confuses the enzymes in your stomach that break down the food into chemicals and this can cause indigestion and gas [you already are a little master of gas].
Wherever you can, eat whole, natural foods. Eat something as close as possible to its natural state; that means, what it looks like when it came from the ground or the sea, or the trees. If you’re going to eat a potato [they’re not that good for you by the way] then eat it grilled, boiled, or mashed [never fried]. That way you can see how the potato was cooked and it’s not that far off from its original state. If you eat a microwaved dinner that has potato in it, you are going far away from the potatoes original state, and that’s bad.
In general, eat natural things, not things that have been processes, or man made. Keep away from sugars, especially soft drinks – they’ll make you fat and play havoc with your blood sugar.
Here’s a picture of you and me eating salad and hummus – great natural food.
Eat a big breakfast [it is the most important meal of the day], a smaller lunch, and a smaller dinner still. There is a famous saying that you should live by when it comes to food: in the morning eat like a King, in the afternoon like a prince, and in the evening like a pauper. Your digestive system is most active and energetic in the morning. It starts slowing down in the afternoon, and by evening time it is tired and shuts down for the night. Anything you eat at night will digest very, very slowly, will not get properly absorbed, and will give you more gas. You might even wake up hungry. Imagine that, after eating a heavy meal late at night the last thing you would expect is to wake up hungry! But that’s precisely what will happen – because the food you ate has not been digested. And not only will you wake up hungry, you’ll wake up tired, because you didn’t really let your digestive system rest properly at night.
Here’s a photo of a good breakfast I had with your great-grandparents Bep and Lou [notice all the different colours]
These are some other simple rules to live by when it comes to food:
Eat slowly – and purposefully. Don’t gulp down your food. Chew your food fully, don’t swallow huge lumps.
But above all: enjoy food. Enjoy preparing it, and enjoy eating it. When you prepare it, find fresh ingredients and take your time making it. Prepare your food with love, and share it with love too.
Eat well and feel great my son.
Your grandfather Lev is fond of saying that there are no such things as coincidences in life. Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s wrong. I suspect we’ll never really know.
A coincidence is when things you didn’t think of, combine to create an effect you didn’t expect.
Here’s a story that will help you understand: When I was in the army I was stationed in Gaza, a dangerous place for us. Curiously, and unwittingly [perhaps ‘coincidentally’], I assembled a whole bunch of green things around me: a green blanket, green shower slippers, a green bag [my own, not the one the army gave me, which was also green], a green CD player. The Israeli army gives you a lot of green things when you join it, but you can always get more of your own things.
They say that green is apparently very good for your eyes because the color makes them relax, and whatever is good for your eyes is good for you, because you have to keep your eyes peeled all the time when you’re in the army. Can you believe that? Imagine I was in the army and needed to keep my eyes peeled all the time but all I had around me where red things, or blue things, or yellow things. My eyes would be tired all the time (actually I remember my eyes being tired all the time). But God sent me green slippers, and green bags, and green shirts, and green caps, and a green CD player (you probably won’t know what that is).
By the way, you might go to the army one day. But I don’t want to think about that now. We’ll talk about that when the time comes.
So do you see what I mean about coincidence? Maybe it was just coincidence that all my things ended up being green or maybe God was looking after my eyes. Either way, looking back on it now, I’m inclined to think that God was looking after my eyes, because CD players come in so many different colors; and how is it that I ended up getting a green one?
One day we’ll talk about faith, and our religion too. You were born Jewish in Israel. That has special meaning, and unique consequences too.
We’ll talk about all these things when the time comes. Right now what I wanted to say to you is this:
I think God has brought you to me and me to you. I don’t think you and I are each other’s coincidence.
I stand above your cot in the darkened room, watching you fall asleep. I stand far enough away so that you think you’re alone, while you struggle with approaching sleep, struggle with putting your mind at rest, and slowly put yourself to sleep. I stand close enough so that, maybe, you’ll feel me close by, and know that it’s me, the “one that is there” (perhaps that’s the ultimate definition of ’father’?), the one that smiles at you, looks at you, sings to you. I’m the last face you see at night, and the first one you see in the morning. The one that you smile to when you awake and see me standing there again as if everything that happened between when you fell asleep and when you awoke was just a dream.
And during the night I stalk into your room and bend down over your cot, hovering just above you, scanning you, stalking you. It’s not a coincidence that you trust me enough to fall asleep in this world, one which you know nothing of yet. This is not a given. Not every newcomer to this world falls asleep as easily as you do. (Your mother says I should add “for now” so that i don’t jinx it.) I hover there over your face for a little while, getting into your mind with mine, and sending you a smile to wherever you are, so that your dreams are golden. And if they are, that too is no coincidence.
The morning comes
I hear you calling, and you smile as you see me coming.
How can you be so wide awake so early?
I take you outside onto the balcony to greet the new day
Hello new day; what will we do today? What will we learn today?
We listen to Chopin
I drink coffee and eat your face
You perched on my shoulder; we go over the newspapers together
It’s always the same news, but sometimes there’s a good story hey Yoni?
Maybe one day we won’t read the papers so much, and we’ll think of other things.
Yoni, you have a stern look about you sometimes. I wonder what you have to be so serious about?
Don’t we hug you all day? Don’t we eat you up all day? Aren’t you kissed all over your little body?
Then why so serious my son?
You love to laugh; you have a rolling, infectious laugh. It is the sweetest music.
You love to play, and your smile is honest, wide, and even a little shy.
But I can see that you have a serious side. You have my serious face, and Your Mother’s frown.
This is a good thing, when kept in proportion.
By the time you read these lines, and understand them, you may probably have already felt the weight of responsibility, the sensations that come with having to make difficult choices.
You can feel it in your stomach, can’t you?
You want to run away, to make it go away.
When these feelings come, and you feel yourself become stressed, close your eyes for a moment, take a few deep breaths, and relax.
Recognise the cold you feel in the pit of your stomach; this is just fear, and you are its master.
Listen to your instincts. The more difficult choice is almost always the correct one.
And after you do the right thing, you will feel relieved. The slave rose up against its master but you put it back in its place. If you don’t feel relieved, then, son, you didn’t do the right thing, and the coldness in your stomach will stay with you. Better just to do the brave thing and go back to smiling.
You will know what the right thing to do is, and now all that’s left is to find the courage to do it. The consequences are never as important as the decision, my son. Whatever happens next is never as bad as you imagine it.
Follow your instincts and be true to yourself – everyone and everything else be damned. And once you have done what you must, you can also laugh at yourself.
Great people can laugh at themselves. And why not huh?
And remember my boy, you are not alone. I will never be far away.
Yoni I have faith in you. You are made of strong stuff. I can see it in your eyes.
Yoni, this is a song I’ve always loved. It sings how I feel for you.
It’s from a band called the Springbok Nude Girls – a strange name indeed for a strange band from a strange land, South Africa, where Your Mother and I grew up. We’ll take you there, and you’ll see its big sky, long beaches, and smiling faces. South Africa will always be part of our family.