Breindl asks Berl to explain how the boys grew so close to him and his brother. She grapples with jealousy, but Berl reassures her that they all want only the boys’ welfare and will work together for it. Breindl notices some activity in the Field of Dreams, but she doesn’t have time to pay close attention.
* * *
Days later, Fisch took a turn for the worse. He developed a high fever, and he was diagnosed with pneumonia. Each family member took turns sitting at his bedside tending to the patient’s needs, but most of the time he tossed and turned in fitful sleep. He was too sick and fragile to transport to a hospital; when Motti drove there to fetch a doctor and described Fisch’s condition, he was told unequivocally that Fisch would not survive the trip, that Motti shouldn’t attempt heroic methods, and not to try to move the patient.
The Sperling boys wept and davened, and Breindl immersed herself deeply in her sefer Tehillim. Berl did not leave Fisch’s bedside for a moment. He elevated his leg on a chair as he sat as close to Fisch as he could, delivering sips of water and applying cold compresses. Motti prepared mustard plasters and cumin salves to rub on Fisch’s chest to ease the wracking cough.
Five days into the vigil, a hired taxi carrying Emanuel, Esther, and Mama and Papa Rothstein pulled up in front of the house.
“I’m sorry. You caught me by surprise, and we’re not prepared. One of our guests has taken ill, and it’s been a busy and trying time.”
“We know,” said Mama. “That’s why we are here.”
Motti looked at her quizzically as his mother began to take charge. “Motti, I’ll need your assistance. We first need to sponge him down with alcohol.”
“We don’t have any alcohol,” said Breindl.
“I’ve brought everything we need.” She pointed to a large case resting in a corner by the doorway. “Let’s get started.”
Soon everyone was running around, conscientiously fulfilling Mama’s commands. After the commotion died down, Mama began the next phase of the treatment, pulling a large brown bottle of tincture from her first aid kit.
“What is that?” asked Breindl.
“Colloidal silver. I brought a large supply when we moved over here, and it keeps long enough.”
“How does it work?” asked Berl, interested.
“I don’t know exactly, but it fixes everything. Let’s start a course of treatment and see how it goes. Meanwhile, keep the chicken soup hot and make sure all the windows are open,” said Mama.
“Won’t he get sicker that way?” asked Kalonymous.
“The opposite. Fresh air is a wonderful healer. He will stay warm, though. We will use blankets.”
Mama stayed a week after Papa and the Rothsteins returned home. During the visit, everyone became acquainted with and charmed by Berl, even in his dismal state.
Mama continued to nurse Fisch back to health. When he awoke for good, his eyes were clearer and his speech slightly improved. Mama claimed that sometimes a body needs to break down before it can get built up. Now that Fisch was on the mend, the Sperlings had no problem curling up at the end of his bed, reading him stories and keeping him company.
As Mama prepared to return home, Berl could not stop thanking her for healing his brother, calling her a miracle worker. “It wasn’t me,” said Mama. “It was the Heilige Basheffer, Who heals everyone. You are a wonderful brother,” said Mama. “And may Hashem bentch you both with good health.”
As she climbed into Motti’s wagon, she was surrounded by the entire family and showered with farewells, blessings, and delicious tzeida l’derech. As she departed, she turned to Motti and Breindl, speaking softly. “You’ve been handed some big responsibility, and I want to tell you both how proud I am. Where others might have given up, you’ve coped with strength and grace. You will see that you will be given everything you need to complete your holy task. I envy you!”
“Thank you, Mama,” said Breindl, her eyes welling with tears. She kissed and hugged her mother-in-law as Motti climbed onto the bench, and soon they were only a spot in the distance.
If there was any thought of Berl and Fisch living anywhere else except with the Rothsteins, it was banished after this experience. Caring together for another, giving together, creates a bond that lasts forever. If any of them were to leave, the entire “family” would suffer, which left Kalonymous in a quandary. He longed to be back with Chilik and the Birenzweigs, at the same time that his heart cherished his time with his brothers and the Rothsteins. At present, he was busy working on his project with Zayit, but he would eventually be forced to decide. He wondered if there was a place where both heart and soul could be fulfilled. If there was, he had yet to discover it.
To be continued . . .