Three weeks of grandma duty. Aliza takes care of her newborn and I help with the other six. The ten year old takes great pleasure in telling me jokes. He knows I like to laugh and that I am tickled to see that he has an active sense of humor. He also knows that I can't remember a joke from one day to the next, so he never has to say, "Stop me if I already told you this one."
The joke always starts with, "Savti, you want I should tell you a joke?" That alone cracks me up because he sounds like an old Poilisher Yid who just got off the boat. Today's joke is about a suicide bomber who is sent on assignment to Tel Aviv. He gets to town and phones his boss. "Boss, there are 30 Jews in this cafe. Should I kill myself?" "No, that's not enough." He goes to the market and phones again. "Boss, there are 50 Jews here. Should I do it?" "No, not enough." He goes to a department store. "Boss, there are 100 Jews here. Should I kill myself?" "Yes. Do it." So he takes out a gun and shoots himself. Get it, Savti? Get it?" The jokes always end with "Get it?" just in case I missed the punchline.
This time I chuckle on the outside so he knows he succeeded in entertaining me but inside I am crushed. To think that at ten years old he is conversant in the issue of suicide bombers. Vey. Last summer he told me that there was one time the missile alert siren went off when he was in the schoolyard, halfway between the school and the shelter, and he didn't know which way to run but he knew he had ten seconds to get to safety. He ran like the devil and made it in time, but he was shaken by the uncertainty. Ten years old and making life and death decisions.
But he is matter of fact about all that. There is only so much adults can shield kids from. They hear about current events from their classmates, even if they don't hear the details at home. They learn to deal. They not just deal with it, they pass along jokes. I'm glad he's not wetting his bed or acting out in some other way. But I would love to hear him tell me, "Savti, a guy walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder....Get it?" Yes, sweetie, I think I get it.