Asher is taken aback when Hindy clamors for Tylenol to ease the pain she is in. He wonders if she is, after all, addicted.
* * *
Later that evening, Aharon showed up. He had not seen his mother since that Shabbos when everything fell apart. But ever since he’d married Bracha, relations between he and his mother sometimes got a bit strained.
When Bracha was suggested, Aharon had already been in shidduchim for more than three years. The shidduch world was very hard on average boys like him; it seemed they could easily get left behind.
What they learned about Bracha raised no red flags for them, especially after so much time had gone by.
As Aharon and Bracha exchanged ideas during their first meeting, they found that they felt the same about all the important things, and more importantly, they got along. After six dates they announced their engagement and went on to build a life together.
It was after two or three years that Bracha’s behavior took a disturbing turn. Aharon would give her money for household expenses, but she’d spend most of it on shoes, and pocketbooks and expensive outfits for herself, and just get the bare minimum of food staples. The first few times this happened, Aharon was able to overlook it, but then it became a pattern.
Aharon stepped in. He cut up all their credit cards, took away her checkbook and did the shopping himself. He gave his wife a budget and, since she didn’t have a job outside the home, she had to make do with whatever money he gave her. She complained a lot, incessantly at times, but he was somehow able to remain firm and let her know he was dead serious. She’d come around after a while, and had even thanked him later on.
The real problem was in raising the children. After their fifth baby was born, Bracha seemed to lose control. There were no set mealtime or bedtimes anymore; she let the kids fall asleep wherever they were and moved them into their beds before Aharon came home. Aharon had no idea how bad it had gotten — he was out working and then he learned until eleven at night.
One night, he came home an hour early and was witness to the chaos. Bracha was on the couch talking on the phone, while the kids ran around jumping and hollering, totally out of control. The look of surprise and embarrassment on Bracha’s face when she realized he was home made it clear that he had to take a hand in this as well.
Aharon changed his schedule and made sure to be home at least twice a day. Bracha would rest or not, but she clearly felt relieved. The children slowly built up a routine, although their behavior was still a problem.
When they went to Bracha’s parents for Shabbos it wasn’t so noticeable, because her parents had the same laid-back attitude. “They’re just children,” his mother-in-law would say. “They won’t be jumping on the couch at their chuppah.” Aharon wasn’t so sure about that.
It was when they went to his parents that the kids’ behavior became an embarrassment. Bracha made as little effort to control them there as she did at home, but instead of laughing off their behavior, his family would sigh loudly at their antics. His mother loved them, he knew that, but they didn’t make a great impression.
All of these thoughts raced in his mind as he knocked on his mother’s hospital room door and went in. She lay with her eyes closed, and Aharon couldn’t help but pray that she was fast asleep.
“Ima?” he said softly, hoping not to wake her.
“Hi, Aharon.” Her eyes flicked wide open and she was completely alert.
“Ima!” He was surprised to find how grateful and happy he was to see her. The feeling had snuck up on him as soon as she said his name. “It’s so good to see you. How are you? How are you feeling?”
“I’m okay, I guess. It feels like a truck drove over me, but that will pass. How are you? Bracha and the children?” Her voice wasn’t her usual one, sounding like it was passing through a tunnel on its way from her mouth to his ears.
“Fine, fine, we’re all fine — worried about you, though. I’m so glad you’re all right.” Relief flowed through him as he spoke, and he realized he’d been holding in his feelings ever since he’d received Feigenbaum’s call.
“What happened to me?” she asked. “Do you know?”
Aharon nodded. “I wasn’t there when it happened. One of your friends or clients was with you and she called Hatzolah. She thought you were having a stroke.”
“A stroke! I looked that bad?”
“I guess so. When they brought you in to the hospital my friend Moshe Feigenbaum recognized your name and he called me. I came rushing over. We waited for the tests and that’s when the doctor told me you’d overdosed. Ima, I was shocked. He made it sound like you were an addict. I didn’t believe him. I still don’t.”
Just then a nurse came in and started to shoo him away. “Your mother needs her rest,” said the nurse. “And I need to check her vitals. You can wait outside. We won’t be long.”
It was hard to tell if Aharon or Hindy was more relieved at the interruption. “I’ll head out now,” he said. “B’ezras Hashem I’ll come back tomorrow to check in on you.”
“Thank you, Aharon,” said Hindy. “We’ll talk again.”
The nurse turned on the blood pressure machine and Hindy could feel the cuff tightening around her upper arm until she was afraid it would burst. The air went out at what seemed to be the last second before an explosion was sure to happen.
To be continued . . .