Pain Relief Chapter 35

novel

Dr. Bando explains to Hindy’s children how she might have become dependent on painkillers as a result of her accident.

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Asher enjoyed driving, so the long drive south on the Thruway didn’t bother him much. What did bother him was that he had travelled up to Albany hoping to land an account with the governor’s office. They were accepting bids to contract out a large portion of their accounting system and Asher’s firm had been among the top three chosen. They had invited the firm representatives up for a meeting, and even though his vice-president and comptroller were in attendance, as the founder and CEO of the firm, he’d felt it his business to be there. Being called away like this made them look unprofessional, but there was nothing he could do.

He was, however, still skeptical as to the nature of Hindy’s problem. Far away and isolated, it sounded to him like the kids were grossly overreacting. Still, he felt like he couldn’t take the chance, and that is why he’d decided to leave early.

When his cellphone rang he started a bit. The night road was long and dark and quiet, and he realized he had been lulled into a daze. He put on his hands-free and clicked on the phone.

It was Aharon. He sighed silently. Asher had never been able to quite understand what made Aharon tick. Perhaps if he’d been home more, spent more time with him, they’d have worn each other’s defenses down and built a better relationship. As it stood now, Aharon was doing well, but Asher felt deep-down that he could have been much better. Boys need their fathers to build their backbones, and it seemed to him that Aharon’s was weak.

“I can’t understand what you’re saying, Aharon,” Asher said now.

Abruptly, Tzippy’s voice replaced Aharon’s on the phone. “Abba? It’s very bad. Ima is very sick. You need to come home now.” She was close to shouting into the phone, and her shaky voice filled the car like smoke.

“Tzippy, calm down. Has anyone spoken to the doctor yet?” he asked. He was still calm, still skeptical.

“Yes!” Tzippy wailed. “Ima is in critical condition. She’s unconscious.”

“Tzippy, what are you saying?”

“Abba,” she whispered. “They said she took a drug overdose. They had to pump her stomach.”

“I feel like you are reading to me from a suspense novel! Are you sure that’s what the doctor said? It sounds to me like a mistake. I knew she wasn’t feeling well, but we were taking care of it.”

“It’s been going on a while. He said she overdosed on Tylenol.” A little sob escaped as she spoke.

Asher was speechless. “Who overdoses on Tylenol? Ima swallows it like candy.”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth he wished he could pull them back. One part of him wanted to protect Hindy’s privacy. If word got out about this, he didn’t know what people would think. He realized, now, that he had just solved the mystery all by himself, and the answer had been right under his nose the entire time. All the little clues he’d swept under the rug came back now in full force.

“Tzippy, I’m on my way, but it’s a long drive. I don’t know when I’ll get there. I want you to go home and get some sleep. Who’s there with you?”

“Aharon, Miriam, and Zalman,” she replied.

“Where’s Sruli?”

“I couldn’t track him down yet. He’ll be done with seder soon — I’ll call him then. Do you want to speak to Aharon again?”

He knew he should say yes, but he was wound too tightly to keep his patience. “No, I think I’ve got the picture. I should concentrate on the road; it’s late and I’m tired. Aharon can stay with Ima until I get there.”

“You know I’m not leaving, Abba.”

He chuckled a little. “Yeah, I know. I’ll see you soon. Daven for Ima.”

“Of course, Abba. Goodbye.”

Asher clicked off, and then allowed himself to think of all the signs he’d both noticed and ignored at the same time. It certainly explained Dr. Newman’s liver diagnosis. How had Hindy just sat there and listened without saying a word? She must have realized she was overdoing it on the Tylenol with codeine, but she said nothing.

He thought also of how erratic she’d been acting since the accident — that strange pancake dinner and her inexplicable behavior on Shabbos. Could that all have come from these pills? He rarely took any sort of medication, preferring to tough it out when he wasn’t feeling well. As he had said, Hindy popped them “like candy,” and that is how he thought of them in his mind. Who knew they were dangerous?

It still sounded so strange to him. He was suddenly anxious to get home now, to press his foot down on the accelerator and be there. He didn’t know how he was going to last the whole ride. He’d go directly to the hospital, of course, and get to the bottom of it.

He was amazed at how quickly things could spin out of control. He loved his routine, the predictability and the stability. His childhood home had been the opposite. Every child loves his parents and he was no exception, but he felt like he had been forced to be mature beyond his years and beyond his capability while growing up. He would often end up doing the grocery shopping and much of the housework because that was the only way it was going to get done. He reminded his mother of her appointments and made sure his father’s suits were sent to the cleaner. He loved Hindy’s organization, even if it was abrupt and matter-of fact.

Was that all about to end? Was Hindy going to survive?

To be continued . . .