When Miriam relates the events of the car accident, Hindy cannot remember it. Instead, she chides her daughter for running a stop sign, which brings Miriam to tears. Zalman, very upset with his shvigger, decides it is time for them to leave.
* * *
Hindy sat back, exhausted, and closed her eyes. She did not remember the events Miriam was describing. All she knew was that the next person who walked in was going to be asked to leave.
But that next person was Dr. Bando.
Of course they had already met briefly, as the doctor was Hindy’s attending physician, but this was her first opportunity to take his measure.
He was short, with out-of-style gold-rimmed glasses. He wore green scrubs and a crisp white coat. There was a wedding ring on his finger, Hindy noticed. Her respect for him grew.
“How are you feeling today Mrs. Fishman?” he asked, standing at the foot of her bed holding her chart.
“I am worn out,” she replied. “Can we put a Do Not Disturb sign on the door?”
Dr. Bando smiled. “We could. We keep a few around just in case.”
“Please. I’d appreciate it.”
“Back to my question: Any pain or discomfort?”
“I’m exhausted, that’s for sure,” she said. “My stomach,” she continued, “feels like a pot with something boiling inside. The bruises hurt. I guess that’s it.”
“It sounds typical. The symptoms should ease in a few days. But Mrs. Fishman, there is something else I want to speak to you about.”
Hindy sighed. “Can’t it wait?”
“Not really,” Dr. Bando replied. “I’m planning to discharge you in a day or two, and it is my duty to advise you regarding aftercare.”
“Aftercare? What does that mean? I need some kind of physical therapy?” she asked.
“No, you don’t need physical therapy.” Dr. Bando answered patiently, as if speaking to a child. “You need rehab. For your addiction.”
Hindy opened her mouth to express her denial.
“Mrs. Fishman,” Dr. Bando cut her off immediately. “The overdose level for Tylenol alone is 6500 milligrams, and that is not taking the codeine into account. The amount we found in you was 8000 milligrams. That’s officially an overdose. Anyone who has that much in their system is either an addict or attempting to take their own life.”
“Take my own life! Never!”
Dr. Bando sighed. These conversations always followed a pattern. The denial was usually so thick he could barely wade his way through it. This patient was unusual, however; it wasn’t often that a Jewish matriarch of a large family crossed his path, but, still, it wasn’t unheard-of. If he’d learned anything since becoming a doctor it was that addiction does not discriminate.
“Then it is addiction. And from the state of your liver, I don’t believe this was your first go-round with this drug.” He chose his words for maximum impact, hoping to penetrate the fog. “Mrs. Fishman, your life is at stake. If you want to live to see your grandchildren, you must get treatment.”
Hindy’s expression was one of misery. At no time in her life had anyone presented her with such an unvarnished set of facts.
“Your husband is adamantly opposed, but I suggest you give it careful thought.” With that, he stood up to leave, and nearly collided with Sruli.
Dr. Bando gestured that he would escort Sruli out if Hindy wanted, but Hindy shook her head. She could never send Sruli away.
Sruli sat down in the chair Dr. Bando had just vacated and studied his mother carefully. “I can come back, Ima, if you’re too wiped out.”
“I am. Abba, Aharon and Miriam all came to see me, plus my doctor. It’s been a long day. But you’re like the icing on the cake. I’m glad you came.”
“You look pale,” he commented, although he didn’t seem put off.
“Yes, no time to put on makeup. This is what I really look like.”
“I like it,” said Sruly. “You look more like an Ima now.” They were both surprised by that observation. “So what’s this about rehab?” he asked.
“Oh, the doctor said I should go, but he also thinks I’m an addict. That’s a joke, right? Ima an addict, like a bum on the street? I don’t think so.”
Sruli sat silently, regarding his mother, weighing his words carefully before he spoke. “Ima, I respectfully disagree,” he said. “And I think you need a different kind of care than we can give at home.”
“What? What do you mean? Anyway, Abba already said I’m not going, and that’s that. Can we talk about something else now? I’m a little sick of this subject.”
“Ima, can I talk to you person-to-person now? Not just Ima to son, but heart to heart?” His eyes were pleading and his mouth was grim. Hindy couldn’t help but soften. “What is it, Sruli? Is everything all right with you? If not, I can ask Abba…”
“Believe it or not, Ima, I’m doing much better, and it’s all thanks to Tzippy.”
“Tzippy?” Hindy felt like she was still in the dream state. Nothing that was being said to her today made sense.
“Yes, little Tzippy. We’ve been talking.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear that, I suppose. Is that what you wanted to talk about?” she asked.
“No, I wanted to talk about you. Ima, you haven’t been yourself for a long time now. Don’t you want to get back to who you were before that stupid fall down the stairs? I should have taken you right to the hospital. I made a mistake. They could have treated you there and the pain would have ended faster and you wouldn’t have taken all that medicine. Ima, I’m begging you — go to the rehab. Come back to us. Please.”
To be continued . . .