Not Easily Severed – Chapter 40

Suri has a disturbing conversation with her oldest son Shimmy that reveals that Bubby Weinbach has been devious about her sons’ availability to speak on the phone.

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The shivah period for the Barkoff family wound slowly to a close, like a long and rainy Sunday afternoon. Here and there, people would come, but mostly it was left to Mrs. Barkoff and her daughters to comfort each other on the loss of their husband and father.

On the final morning, after the minyan, the faithful Mrs. Nathan gathered them up and walked them around the block, thus ending the first phase of mourning.

The Barkoffs stepped into the sunlight. Their eyes squinted at the brightness, as though it should have dimmed somehow during the past week. Upon their return to the guest apartment, they found themselves feeling out of sorts.

“I guess I should be making arrangements to return home,” said Mattel. “My kids are probably going crazy without me there.”

“Me, too,” said Suri. “Who knows what’s happening back there.”

“I guess we should phone Mr. Shapiro,” said Rena. “Get the house business sorted out.”

“And you have your big date,” said Suri.

“Please don’t remind me,” said Rena. “It’s so inappropriate. Such bad timing.”

“I don’t know. I think your friend Mrs. Asoulin had a point,” said Suri. “About how getting married should be your top priority.”

“Whatever,” said Rena. She was searching through her purse for Mr. Shapiro’s business card, and breathed a hefty sigh of relief when she found it.

“Are you up to meeting with him today, Ma?” she asked.

“Yes, why not? I’m not going to feel any better or worse tomorrow or the next day. Plus, I’d like to get home. I’m sure Mrs. Nathan was keeping her son up to date on our whereabouts, but I know there are many people who would have liked to visit us during the shivah period. I am sure I will have to plan something for the shloshim. It’s not fair to leave the members of the community without any closure.”

“That’s so like you,” said Mattel. “Any other person would just do what’s best for them. But you always have the big picture in mind.”

Mrs. Barkoff was surprised at her youngest daughter’s words of praise. Mattel had always been closer to Rabbi Barkoff, and, although mother and daughter had always enjoyed a loving and cordial relationship, her husband was clearly Mattel’s favorite parent.

“Thank you,” she replied. “I think it’s more like trying to keep one step ahead. The big picture is sometimes too big. But one step forward I can usually manage.”

“Okay,” said Rena, snapping her phone closed. “Mr. Shapiro will be here at 3 o’clock this afternoon.” As she spoke, the phone rang in her hand and she answered it reflexively. She was surprised to hear Mrs. Asoulin’s voice on the other end.

“Shalom, Rena. My brother-in-law will be at our home tonight to meet you. I hope it will be convenient for you.”

Rena was slowly adjusting to Mrs. Asoulin’s style. When they had become acquainted at camp, the young Maryam had been their mutual focus concern, so they hadn’t had much interaction otherwise.

Rena knew Mrs. Asoulin to be a strong and uncompromising advocate for her daughter’s health, so it shouldn’t have surprised her to find that trait running through her other relationships. Even so, it still felt as if a flying object was headed towards her at top speed when they spoke.

“I think it is fine. B’li neder, I’ll be there.”

“Very good,” said Mrs. Asoulin. “Until then.”

It was the last thing Rena wanted to do right then, but she knew it was her responsibility to investigate appropriate suggestions. It was just very hard.

She purposely did not mention to Mrs. Asoulin their proposed visit to the house today. She was going to leave that end of things to the capable Mr. Shapiro.

Shapiro showed up a few minutes after three, and asked them if they would prefer to walk the few blocks to the property or travel by car. Mrs. Barkoff agreed to the walk immediately, anxious to see the streets of Yerushalayim and shake off the dust of her sadness, if even for just a short while.

Since Suri and Mattel were still around, unwilling or unable to propel themselves through all the necessary steps to get back home again, they decided to join the walking tour along with their mother and Rena.

They proceeded slowly down the wide street in three rows: Mr. Shapiro up ahead, leading them as though he were the captain of a marching band, Rena and Mrs. Barkoff in the next row, and Suri and Mattel in the third.

Along the way, Mr. Shapiro would stop and point out interesting sights, once even stopping to point out a huge fig tree growing wild, seemingly out of the sidewalk. The figs hung like large teardrops from the low-hanging branches, and they all stopped and admired the tree as though it were a valuable painting in an exclusive art gallery.

“I can’t remember the last time I saw a tree that wasn’t planted by a fancy landscaper,” said Mattel.

Suri and Rena nodded in agreement. Mrs. Barkoff was the first to break away and move on.

“Come,” she said gently. “We don’t want to keep Mr. Shapiro waiting.” Mr. Shapiro seemed to be in no hurry, and the women understood that their mother was anxious to see this mysterious legacy her beloved husband had left for her.

To be continued …