110 days of reserve duty. I do not know exactly how many of those days he was actually not home. It doesn’t matter, because even when he would be, he was just visiting and not living at home. His heart and soul were not at home. In many ways, by no fault of his own, he ceased to be my husband.
140 days ago we were on cloud nine. Granted, I could say the same for 110 days ago. 140 days ago we were leaving our friends’ wedding and on our way to our own belated honeymoon; thanks Covid-19. 110 days ago we were with these same friends celebrating chag. Everything changed in an instant. And it has been some of those small instant changes, for the better and for the worst, that have marked these last 110 days; day by day, hour by hour.
130 days ago was the last time I took birth control. We were excited to start a family. We barely even had a chance to, when he was ripped away from home, from me.
I never thought of myself as dependent on a man. I was always Miss Independent. By the time I was born, my siblings were out of the house. By the time I reached middle school my mother went back to school and I was cooking my own dinners, sometimes I would even cook for my father. When my husband and I started dating he was still in the army and while I was falling in love with him, I never felt like I needed him. But then he was gone.
That first week is actually the most vivid. Especially that Shabbat. I was with family as he awaited orders on the border. That Saturday night I was supposed to get my first period since getting off birth control, but it never came. At first I was excited, I thought maybe the few times we had been intimate before he left were successful. But I knew that was just wishful thinking.
The despair I felt that first motzash without him was matched by a high I could never explain a week later. I was still with family to help with the kids, and as I was pouring milk into my little cousin’s cereal, my husband called to tell me he was on his way home for 24 hours. I felt like I could fly. On my way home I realized that had I gotten my period on time the week prior, I would still be niddah today… I have never been one to believe that Hashem dictates every aspect of our personal lives, but in that moment, I understood that this was one such time. I understood that I needed his touch right now more than I needed to be pregnant. I needed to feel his warm embrace more than I needed my body to be following a schedule.
Unfortunately, after 24 blissful hours, once again he was gone. This time it was even harder. This time it was clear that this wasn’t going to be over within a month. This time we knew he might be sent to fight. We knew this might be the last time we see each other. As he stood in the door hugging me, I thanked Hashem for the time we had together.
Three weeks passed. Still no period. Still no man. Over the course of weeks I became depressed, I couldn’t focus. I tried to get everything in the house done, most of the things that I usually took care of as it was, and yet without him, everything became more difficult to achieve. He wasn’t there to cheer me on. He wasn’t there to hold me when I broke down. He wasn’t there when I most needed him. And then the roller coaster of this war took another dip. When I finally saw blood I was elated; at least my body was still fertile and birth control hadn’t ruined me. But then I realized that he would likely be home soon for another break and I would be in niddah.
Sure enough, a day after getting my period, he calls to say he’s coming home for 24 hours again. I silently yelled at Hashem. How could He?! How could He have given me such bliss just to prevent it the next time?! Did I need my husband’s touch any less now?! Davka the opposite! I needed it more than ever!
I am not proud of this, but when he came home I just didn’t care, I ran to him and jumped up to hug him. We needed to embrace each other, we needed to know that we were really there and not a figment of our imaginations. We spent the next 24 hours blissfully beside each other, but longing to be closer to one another at the same time.
On again, off again. Up and down. No rhyme or reason, became the pattern of the war for the next 3.5 months.
Sometimes everything worked out just perfectly. One week he had been home Sunday and mikveh was on Wednesday. I didn’t make going a priority because I did not expect him home, and I almost didn’t make it to the mikveh on time that day. When 12:30pm on Friday came around and he called to say he was on his way home for Shabbat (our first Shabbat together since the war began), I couldn’t stop thanking Hashem for bringing me another small high on the roller coaster of war.
Then we come to day 110. Day 110 accidentally fell out on mikveh night. Once again my period had arrived at a random time that month and when my husband was home earlier in the week I was still in niddah. As he hugged me good-bye two days earlier, he had said that he was supposed to be out for Shabbat but to not hold my breath. I didn’t, but when mivkeh night came around, this time I made it a priority.
On my way home I almost cried thinking about how once again, like every other mikveh night of the war I was going home to an empty apartment. As I entered my building I began to tear up. But as I walked through my door my tears turned to ones of joy. I opened the door to find a line of candles and rose petals to the center of the living room, where he stood still in uniform but without a gun – he had returned! I once again had a husband! He was no longer visiting, now he could once again live at home. We could go back to trying to grow a family.
Needless to say, his surprise put me over the moon. We had one of the most intimate nights we have ever had. I am grateful to Hashem for allowing this night to be the end of this crazy roller coaster known as Iron Swords. And who knows, maybe Hashem has blessed us in more ways than one – I guess I’ll find out in about a month.