Pain Relief Chapter 24

Novel

In her haste to return Hindy’s car, Miriam has run a stop sign and had an accident. Zalman is driving Hindy to pick up Shabbos food, when they both realize what has happened.  

*   *   *

Since the accident had been Miriam’s fault, there had been some tense moments wondering if the other driver would press charges. Luckily, even though his car had been nearly totaled, he agreed to leave it to the insurance companies to deal with. Miriam and her baby were taken to the hospital to be checked out and didn’t get home until an hour before Shabbos. Zalman took whatever he could out of the freezer and threw it into the microwave, one frozen block after another until he’d put together enough for the seudos.

*   *   *

“Zalman, please. You’re being ridiculous. Please come for Shabbos.” Hindy pleaded with her son-in-law but he was adamant.

“Thank you, but we’re staying home. Please try to understand. Miriam’s resting and I don’t want anything to upset her. We’ll, im yirtzeh Hashem, call you after Shabbos.” Hindy could hear the children shouting in the background and wondered how Zalman would manage.

“I can take the kids if you want,” said Hindy.

“Thanks, but I think we all just want to be together this Shabbos. We have a lot to be thankful for.” Hindy gave up and clicked off the phone, feeling shaky from all that had happened.

She’d returned home to a miracle. Asher had come home from work, expecting the usual tumult, only to find the house in shambles and no sign of Shabbos being ready. He’d tried to phone Hindy but her phone was turned off, so he assumed she was out on a last-minute call, filling in the final details of a kiddush or bar mitzvah, as happened sometimes. Unsure what to do, he rolled up his sleeves and did all the dishes. As soon as Tzippy arrived, he roped her in, and between the two of them they rustled up Shabbos. Hindy had finally called, explaining what happened and asked them to call everyone and cancel. Asher didn’t know what to say — he’d gone to all this trouble and wasn’t willing to let it go to waste.

That’s how she found herself, close to Shabbos, a grateful but abashed recipient of Asher’s good will. She dragged herself upstairs to get ready, but instead crumpled into bed, too exhausted and overwrought from her day to lift her arms or her feet for one moment longer. When they called her to come down and light, she was sleeping so deeply that Asher  had ended up lighting the Shabbos candles instead. Aharon’s kids were running around completely unsupervised, and everyone was looking at Tzippy, hoping she’d get them under control. Instead she sat down on the couch, her arms folded, her mouth set firm. Bubby was in the kitchen, desperately trying to bringit under control.

The men had just come home from shul, expecting the table to be set, gleaming and sparkling. Instead, the tablecloth had been thrown on like a rumpled bed sheet, and the place was a mess.

“Tzippy,” said Asher, clearly annoyed. “What’s going on here?”

Tzippy stood up. “It’s time for a family meeting, Abba” she said.

“I don’t think this is the time…” Asher started.

“It must be the time,” said Tzippy. “Something is really wrong here.”

“Nothing’s wrong,” said Asher. “Your mother just isn’t feeling well. She had a hard day. Come on, get going.”

Tzippy didn’t budge. Everyone had slowly congregated into the living room, looking around at each other, wondering what was happening.

“Abba, Ima hasn’t been herself for a long time. You aren’t here. You don’t see it like we do.” She looked to her grandmother for confirmation but Lena was looking down at her hands.

Asher was taken aback. “I beg your pardon,” he said. “If something was wrong with Ima, I’m sure I would know it.”

Lena sat forward as though to say something then quickly sat back, reacting to some hidden sign from Max.

“Please listen to me, Abba. I’m sorry, but Ima is sick. Something is wrong with her. She needs our help.”

“Tzippy.” Asher was simmering now. “Get into the dining room and set the table this minute. I don’t want to hear any more about this. Do you understand?”

“I understand you, Abba, and I’ll do what you tell me, but it’s just not fair to Ima.”

A slipper sailed through the air, followed by the wail of the child who had had it taken away. Bracha, Aharon’s wife, got up and left the room to calm the dispute between her children. Asher sat down on the couch. “What would you have me do?” said Asher. ’s been to the doctor. He said she’s recovered fully from her fall and everything’s fine.”

“Excuse me, Abba, that can’t be,” said Tzippy. “Because that’s exactly when everything started — when she fell down the stairs.  I wrote in my journal the day that she fell, and then a few things that happened afterwards. It’s getting worse. She’s acting funny, she’s sleeping at weird times, she’s basically stopped working – don’t you all see it? And when has Ima ever missed candle lighting?”

“Tzippy,” Bubby said mildly, trying to calm her granddaughter down. Privately, she agreed with every word. She too believed something was wrong, but could not put her finger on it. “You may be right,” she continued. “But now is not the time. We are so grateful you brought the matter fully to our attention, and we will do something about it. We just can’t do it now. It’s Shabbos.”

“Bubby, you’re not taking me seriously.”

Chas v’shalom!” Lena was truly struck by the accusation. “I would never do that to you!”

They heard a door slam upstairs and everyone looked up at once. Hindy appeared on the stairs, still in her weekday clothes. She yawned and looked down at her family. “What’s going on?” she said. “What is everyone doing here?”

To be continued . . .