Pain Relief Chapter 17


Hindy awakes feeling physically better, but, to her surprise, takes the pills anyway. Her parents drive her to Dr. Newman, their family doctor. Hindy strongly requests that he not tell her parents the results of any tests he runs, and he agrees.

*   *   *

Hindy put the doctor’s visit out of her mind and, as was their habit after going just about anywhere together, Max drove by unspoken agreement to the shopping center and their regular bagel place. They all ordered the same thing every single time, but the routine didn’t affect their enjoyment.

After a leisurely meal, they all bentched and started gathering their things.

“Are you sure you don’t want us to stick around?” asked her mother, worry gathering in the corners of her eyes.

“Do you or do you not see a perfectly healthy and fine person standing in front of you?” asked Hindy with some conviction, because she really did feel better.

Her mother took a long look at her daughter. “I’m not sure. You’ll let us know when you get the test results?”

“Absolutely.” This, she knew, was true. However, no matter what the test results revealed — which would more than likely be nothing a few vitamins couldn’t fix — she’d tell her parents everything was fine. But everything would be fine. She was certain.

“Good-bye Ma,” she said, walking them to their car. “Good-bye Tatty. And thank you for your concern.”

“Wait,” said Max. “Aren’t you coming with us? How are you getting home?”

“I’ll walk,” said Hindy. “I could use the exercise.”

“Okay, sheifeleh. We’ll see you on Shabbos, G-d willing,” Max said.

Hindy felt a twinge of unease rise up inside her as she watched her parents pull away. She couldn’t have walked home if she tried — and she wasn’t about to try. The truth was that she couldn’t face going back to the job. She’d texted Yochi some tasks that she thought of off the top of her head, enough to keep her busy for a few hours, and thanked Hashem that it was Sefirah. Bar mitzvahs were relatively easy to plan, but a full-service chasunah would have been out of the question. She was the choreographer of a thousand-piece puzzle, and one wrong move would send the entire system reeling.

She went back into the bagel store and ordered another coffee, sat down wearily in the booth they’d just vacated, and thought about the rest of the week ahead. Shabbos was going to be an extravaganza, with her locals Aharon and Miriam and their expanding families, her parents, and Sruli and Tzippy, if she was lucky. She tried not to plan on their help but these days she was feeling overwhelmed more and more often.

When her children started moving towards their futures, Hindy had entertained a sweet vision of wall-to-wall mattresses, a grandchild — or two or three — resting quietly on each one. She had imagined herself making her way from one to the next, giving each precious grandchild a moment or two of private “Bubby-time.” When she finished and kissed each one on the forehead, she and Asher would say Krias Shema aloud, each young voice joining in according to his level. Their voices would pipe up high and clear … and just the thought of such bliss could bring her to tears.

The reality was different. So far, Shabbos with everyone there was a balagan. Miriam and her daughter-in-law both tended to collapse as soon as they crossed the threshold of her home, leaving her and Asher — and occasionally Tzippy — to take up the slack.

Lena, too, would pitch in. Between bouts of picking up toys and washing dishes she’d look at Hindy with dismay. “Didn’t you educate them?” she’d say, trying to make it sound like a joke. “What were you doing all those years?”

Trying to love them, Hindy thought and was surprised to feel tears come to her eyes, and not doing so well at it either. She quelled the thought, consoling herself that once things quieted down she would have the energy to make Shabbos the way she used to, before the fall.

Dreams. Some of them came true. She’d been so grateful when her first four children, two here and two in Eretz Yisrael, married and had started their families. She wasn’t worried about Tzippy yet, but her heart clutched with controlled panic as she thought of Sruli. She remembered Tzippy’s cryptic comment and wondered if her daughter knew more about Sruli than she was letting on.

“Excuse me,” a voice interrupted her reverie. “Can I get you some more coffee?”

Startled, Hindy looked up at the waitress standing over her. “No, no thank you. Just the check.”

“You paid already at the counter,” said the waitress.

“Of course.”

“You all right, Ma’am? Can I bring you some water?”

“No, no, I’ll be going.” She looked at her watch and blinked in surprise. Had she been sitting here for two and a half hours? “Do you have the time?” she spoke to the waitress again.

The waitress looked at Hindy’s watch and smiled. “Same time you have. Time flies, huh?”

Now Hindy was stuck at the bagel store, too exhausted to walk home and without enough money to take a cab, because she’d treated her parents to lunch. She remembered that Asher kept an account with a car service. She found the card in her wallet and to her great relief, the account number was scribbled on the back. Another crisis averted — her specialty.


To be continued . . .