Pain Relief Chapter 37


Hindy awakens. She learns that the level of codeine in her blood had been life-threatening. Asher visits, and then goes to inform Hindy’s mother of what has happened.

*   *   *

“There you are!” Tzippy nearly shouted, reaching the bench in bookstore. “I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

Sruli looked up. It was 11:00 a.m., not their usual meeting time. “How did you know I’d be here?”

“I didn’t,” she said, sitting down. “I took a lucky guess. Don’t you answer your phone anymore?”

“No,” he answered. “It’s usually bad news.”

“Well, here’s some bad news in person. Ima is in the hospital, in a coma.”

Sruli smiled. “Tzippy, if you want me to come home, just say so. You don’t need to make up stories about Ima.”

Tzippy grimaced. “Sruli, I’m not kidding. She overdosed on Tylenol. She’s in the ICU. We were there all night.”

Sruli realized that Tzippy was serious. He stood up quickly, suddenly a bundle of nerves. “Where is she? Which hospital?”

“Memorial. I have the car outside. I’ll drive you.”

“Whose car?”


“She never lets you  drive her car,” said Sruli.

Tzippy didn’t reply, aware herself of the irony. She nagged her mother incessantly to let her drive her car, but Hindy had always refused. Tzippy would have preferred not to drive it now under these circumstances.

They traveled silently until they reached the hospital parking lot. Tzippy noticed Sruli wasn’t making any attempt to open the door.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I’m scared.”



“When we were speaking the other day, and I was telling you about Ima, you said something like ‘it finally caught up to her.’ What did you mean by that?”

“I don’t know. Ima was acting strangely. She didn’t look right. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice.”

“I did, but how did you know?”

“I guess because I don’t see her that often, the difference was very noticeable.”

Tzippy sat back in her seat. It was a rainy, drizzly day, which was a comfort. A shiny blue-sky day would have seemed inappropriate in the face of their crisis.

Tzippy watched the cars and ambulances pull in and out, realizing that every one of them was busy with someone sick. The thought frightened her, but she had to be strong for Sruli.

“You ready?” she asked him.

“Guess so.”

They got out of the car and walked toward the hospital entrance. Sruli had a memory of the two of them — he couldn’t have been more than seven — on their first solo trip to the mini-market down the street from their house. They’d set out filled with excitement and trepidation. Who knew what awaited them in the big, wide world? They’d walked with care, starting to hurry when the large flickering sign came into view, and dashed into the store in a fit of giggles, oblivious to the people around them.

He felt that way now, frightened yet a bit giddy, as though he were acting in a play and this wasn’t really his life. Tzippy had been his sidekick until they’d gotten too old to play together, but now here she was again.

“Here we go,” she said. They stepped through the sliding doors and silently rode the elevator up to the ICU.

“There’s Bubby,” said Sruli. He went over to her and she squeezed his arm tightly. Shopping bags were lined up along the wall of the waiting room; she came prepared to nourish all who crossed her path.

“How’s Ima?” asked Tzippy, receiving a kiss from Bubby.

“She’s awake, baruch Hashem, but very groggy. She’s in a lot of pain. Zaidy just stepped out to daven Minchah. He’ll be back soon.”

Tzippy and Sruly sat down together, each accepting a cup of coffee from Bubby’s bottomless thermos. “Bubby?” said Tzippy. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Certainly, dear.” Lena sat down and gave Tzippy her full attention. Tzippy knew she was lucky to have a grandmother who really listened. All the Fishman children had needed Bubby’s listening ear at one time or another.

“Bubby, is Ima angry at us?”

“What do you mean?” Lena stayed in control, but her heart was pounding.

“I feel two ways. I’m so sorry she’s sick, so worried, but I part of me feels that by hurting herself she knew she was hurting us too. Did we do something to her that made her upset?” Tzippy was crying now,  the fear and pain she’d been swallowing since she heard the news spilling out at last. Lena laid Tzippy’s head on her shoulder and soothed her gently.

“What are we going to do, Bubby? What’s going to happen to her?”

Sruli was looking on, a little jealous that there was no one for him to turn to like that. He’d feel ridiculous unburdening himself to his grandmother. It was bad enough that he confided in Tzippy.

“I don’t know,” Lena replied. “First thing we need to do is daven that your Ima gets well. Nothing will happen until then.”

Tzippy nodded, wiping her face with her sleeve, holding the warm coffee cup with both hands.

“Can we see her?” said Sruli.

“I don’t know if she’s up,” said Bubby. “Wait here, I’ll check with the nurse.”

Bubby went over to the nurses’ station, conferred briefly, and returned to where her grandchildren, looking so forlorn, were waiting.

“You can go in for a minute.”

“Can you come with us?” asked Tzippy.

“Certainly. Remember, she may not be well, she may have made a mistake, but she’s still your mother and she loves you. Do you hear me? She loves you, and nothing will ever change that.”

To be continued . . .