Leib Weinbach has spent three days with his sons and realizes that he has made a mistake by not being involved in their lives.
* * *
“What are you thinking?” said Leib to his mother, walking into the kitchen after finally getting the boys to sleep. “Just say it.”
“There’s nothing to say,” said the older Mrs. Weinbach. “Nothing at all.” Her face was wet with tears. “Those boys are just so beautiful, and that Mordechai is the spitting image of you! When I look at him, my head spins back all those years like they were nothing!”
Leib was surprised that he reminded his mother of Mordechai. He saw a lot of himself in Shimmy, but as he’d learned the hard way and she had too, people do change, and sometimes quite a lot.
“Yeah,” he said in reply. “They’re something special.”
“How?” said his mother. “How could you have left them behind? Those precious children!”
“Ma, they weren’t that precious when Suri and I split up. They were just babies.” They both knew he was being defensive. He couldn’t admit that he had just been too blinded by other things.
“So what are you going to do?” Mrs. Weinbach asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, now that you’ve gotten to know them, maybe you can work out an arrangement.”
“What kind of arrangement?” he asked, but he knew what she was going to say, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear it.
“Don’t tell me that after spending these three days with them you aren’t hungry for more.”
“I can see them when they’re by you,” said Leib. “There’s no point in getting tangled up in the courts again and all of that.”
“I’m sure we can make an informal arrangement, Leib. This had nothing to do with Suri. It’s between you and those boys. She’s done a fine job raising them, with no help from you. But they would be so much better off with a real father in their lives, especially now that Rabbi Barkoff is gone.”
“Yeah, that was a shock. He was a nice guy,” said Leib.
“He was, and he treated you with a lot more decency than you deserved. I don’t know, Leib. It just breaks my heart. So much went wrong, and for no good reason.”
Leib was silent. They had never really discussed the reasons surrounding the divorce, mainly because it wasn’t something Leib could put into words.
“Your children should not have to pay for your mistakes,” she said, quietly.
“Divorcing was not a mistake!” His voice rose, mainly to cover the noise in his head. At the time, it had seemed like exactly the right thing to do. He’d been frightened by her neediness. She’d been so overwhelmed when the babies were born that it had all just seemed wrong for him, and instead of trying to work things out, or compromise, or compensate for what he felt she lacked, he’d decided to write the whole marriage off as a mistake. He would start over in a new marriage, he told himself..
The only problem was that he hadn’t been able to find anyone else to marry. Each woman he dated was unsuitable for a different reason. He’d attempted to contort himself to fit with some of the shidduch suggestions he’d been offered, but as much as he twisted himself around, it just didn’t work. It made him wonder if Suri had been more appropriate for him than he’d thought, because when they’d met, she had seemed so perfectly, naturally right for him. Now, the thought of marrying someone else seemed impossible.
“Let’s just get through this week, okay?” he said softly. “Then we’ll see what’s what, afterwards. Meanwhile, they’re here with us and we can enjoy them. Okay, Ma?”
“Okay, Leib. Are you going to stay over again tonight?”
“Yeah, I guess so. It’s fun to see them in the morning. They’re so cute. And I like to wash their little hands negel vasser by their beds in the morning. They said Suri does it too. We used to do that when they were babies,” he said solemnly.
“I’m so sorry, Leib. This can’t be easy for you,” said his mother. “I know I’ve been hard on you, but I wanted you to see … to see what …”
“Go ahead, Ma. Say it. To see what I’m missing, right?”
Mrs. Weinbach nodded.
“Well, whatever you’re doing, it’s working,” he said, more harshly than he meant to. “I feel like the biggest loser in the whole world. I don’t know what I was thinking, turning my back on them. How will I ever get them to love me?”
“That’s the easy part. Kids are hard-wired to love their parents. It’s built into them. It’s getting them to trust you that will take some work.”
The loud ring of the phone intruded like a noisy guest. “Hello?” said Leib, reaching over because he was the closest. Hearing nothing, he tried again. “Hellooo, who is this?” Mrs. Weinbach’s phone had not yet advanced into the realm of caller i.d.
“It’s Suri. Are the kids still awake?”
“Hold on.” He handed the phone to his mother and quickly left the room.
To be continued …