Suri is shocked by Bubby Weinbach’s revelations, and wonders what effect was on Leib of being abandoned by his father. Bubby Weinbach’s reference to “our boys” troubles Suri, though she is not sure why. Mrs. Barkoff receives a visitor who claims to manage a property that belonged to Rabbi Barkoff.
* * *
“What’s going on?” said Mattel. She had spotted the legal documents in the man’s hands out of the corner of her eye, and wanted to protect her mother’s legal rights. “What are those papers?”
Mr. Shapiro eyed Mattel suspiciously as she held her hand out toward him, unwilling to relinquish the precious and now controversial papers.
“I am instructed to give only to Mrs. Barkoff,” he said now.
“Rena!” Mrs. Barkoff was nearing her wits’ end. Mattel was examining a photo of a house, which was stapled to the front of a folder.
“Wow, Ma. This is beautiful. Is it yours? I didn’t know you and Tatty were investing in property. Why didn’t you tell me? I would have helped you.”
“We do not own property!” said Mrs. Barkoff. “I don’t know anything about this.”
Mrs. Nathan approached in her quiet and practical way. “Let’s everyone sit down. We’ll get to the bottom of this in no time at all. Please. Come.” Somehow she managed to get everyone seated again. “Mr. Shapiro, you are well aware that this is hardly an appropriate time for these transactions. Mrs. Barkoff is sitting shivah for her husband.”
“Of course, of course,” he said. “But time is essential here. If Mrs. Barkoff goes back, poof, I miss my chance to do my duty. My legal duty.”
“And collect your legal fee, I’m sure. Let’s just find out what we’re talking about here,” said Mattel, metamorphosing from a mourner into a formidable finance officer. “Let’s see those papers.”
At a nod from Mrs. Barkoff, Mr. Shapiro finally relinquished the folders for Mattel to look at. Everyone sat quietly as she skimmed the documents, and looked at each other questioningly every time she raised an eyebrow or whistled under her breath.
“Well, Ma,” said Mattel, finally. “It looks like you are the sole owner of a beautiful home on David Street in Jerusalem.
Once again, Mrs. Barkoff turned to look at Rena.
“What?” said Rena.
“Oh, look. Here’s a letter addressed to you, Ma. It’s in the folder.”
“Let me see that,” said Mrs. Barkoff, practically grabbing it from Mattel. All eyes were on her as she slowly opened the flap of the envelope and extracted the folded piece of rich bond from its interior. It was addressed to Mr. Shapiro and postmarked 1998.
“You received this fourteen years ago?” she asked Shapiro.
“Yes. Well not I, personally. My father received it.”
“Ah, your father knew my husband?” asked Mrs. Barkoff.
“I believe he did,” Shapiro replied, shifting anxiously from foot to foot. He was eager to complete his business there and move on. “It says in my instructions that I’m to be present while you read.”
Mattel couldn’t help but smirk. “You are such a …”
“Businessman. Good businessman,” Mrs. Nathan interjected smoothly.
“Mrs. Nathan, you should have been a negotiator for the United Nations,” said Mattel.
Mrs. Nathan smiled quietly, well aware of her diplomatic strengths.
“Mrs. Barkoff, please. If you would read,” said Shapiro, tapping his watch.
“Okay. Fine.” Mrs. Barkoff pulled the letter toward her and began to look it over. She saw her husband’s letterhead — the one they had so painstakingly designed together — at the top.
“My Cherished Wife,” it began.
“If you are reading this, then you know that I have returned Home, to the place of eternal rest. Be happy for me, if you can, for I suffered greatly in my lifetime.”
“This is not from Tatty,” said Mrs. Barkoff aloud. “This is some kind of a hoax.”
“Just read it,” said Rena. “Then decide.”
“Not a day passed that I did not feel badly about plucking you from your home and family,” the letter continued. “Even though I did everything I could to make you more comfortable, and successful, during our life together in America, I knew there was a part of you that missed your birthplace. But you were an eishes chayil, never looking back, never making me feel bad.”
Mrs. Barkoff sat down, holding her arms tightly around herself as she read.
“And so as a way of making you feel whole again, I purchased this home for you. I am selfish and I don’t want you to leave me in my lifetime, and I am sorry for this, and for not telling you about it. There was no way I could leave America, and I knew that if you had any idea about the house, you would want to move at once. But now that I have given you all that I could give you in life, I want to give you this one final gift. I want to return your past to you, and make it into your future. I want you to feel complete in a way that you haven’t since we left Israel when you were so young. Feel free to do what you wish with the house and the land on which it is built. Sell it, live in it, whatever is good for you. I know that you will make the best decision. Another copy of this letter is included in my will, but I wanted you to have this while you were still in Israel. I hope Mr. Shapiro found you and delivered it on time. I left word with the lawyer to contact him upon notice of my death.
“With great wishes that you should be comforted upon my petirah, that you remain in good health, and continue to have nachas from our children and grandchildren.
To be continued …