Max chastises Hindy in a way that shows her how big a mistake she has made. Then, he takes her face in his hands and tells her ‘I forgive you.’
* * *
At her father’s words, Hindy sat back as though she’d been shot, those feather- tipped arrows stripped of their sheaves and finally hitting their target: her heart. For once she had no words to respond, no sharp and snappy comeback to fight off the pain. Defenseless, she felt the ache flow through her veins like venom, but instead of coming to harm her it had come to heal.
Max lay back down again, tired, but a light glow now illuminating his face. Lena watched from afar, sensing that he had reached some sort of apex and would soon be returning to her. She couldn’t think of one other time he’d voiced his feelings so bluntly, even the previous time this had happened. Then he’d laid silently, whatever was paining him clogging his throat and pushing his feelings deeper and deeper inside, until one day he got up, wished her a good morning and spread out the newspaper in front of him while she served his usual tea and toast.
But Hindy hadn’t known, until her father told her, that it was she who needed to be forgiven. She’d heard Asher and the kids reading her the riot act in their sweet and not-so-sweet way, and while she’d taken it seriously, in the wake of her father’s mechilah her efforts had paled in comparison to his. She thought of all the times she’d asked mechilah, and now that she’d heard what true forgiveness sounded like, she realized that her attempts, while well-intentioned, fell far short. She wondered if the mechilah she’d received was still applicable when the request for it had not been sincere.
She’d been so consumed with her role as the victim that she’d never considered the idea that she was also the wrongdoer. Miriam’s rejection had stung, but Hindy had partially dismissed it as another display of Miriam’s penchant for drama, and Zalman’s control over her life. Now the world had swung again, and her mind wandered behind the eyes of all her family members, viewing her through their gaze, and she was suddenly disgusted.
Faced now with a new reality — not the NA approach, not the Dr. Bachman approach, not the mockery of the truth that she had deluded herself into thinking was real — but the Torah perspective explained to her by someone she deeply trusted, she could only be ashamed. She wondered how many levels of shame were left for her to descend into — each time she thought she’d reached rock bottom and a new trap door opened and she fell through once again.
She hung her head now, before her father. “Thank you, Tatty,” was all she could say. She rose then, and with as much dignity as she could muster, she walked quietly out of the room. Lena and Miriam stepped quickly towards his bed, hoping to engage him in more conversation, but his eyes were closed and his breathing regular.
Lena led Miriam back to the little card table she’d set up and poured her a drink. The two women, two generations apart, gazed at each other in shared dismay.
“You heard what Zeidy said.” It was a statement, not a question.
Miriam reddened slightly, embarrassed to be caught. “My ears heard. I couldn’t help it.”
“If I were you I would take his words to heart,” was the last Lena said on the subject.
Miriam’s rage at her mother had been churning inside of her since the accident, and had grown in intensity since the therapy session. For the first time, she’d stood up for herself, demanding that her needs be taken seriously and following through on the consequences. With all of that, she was now expected to forgive the woman she could barely acknowledge? What about her mother asking her for forgiveness? Wasn’t she the one who’d been wronged?
She felt trapped suddenly inside the small, closed room, the windows shut and the curtains drawn. So, after giving her grandmother a light kiss on the cheek, she too stepped outside for some air. For a moment she couldn’t take her eyes from the older woman’s face, the love shining through, the ability to remain loving even when her own world was toppling. She’d never leave Zaidy’s side. Miriam wondered if she’d feel the same way about Zalman, but no clear answer presented itself.
She went into the kitchen, thinking to prepare supper for her grandmother, when she spotted her mother standing near the railing of the neat porch that wrapped around the front of the house. She and her siblings had spent hours and hours of their lives on that porch, playing, running, climbing, fighting, and taking turns jumping down from the railing. It was hard to see it so desolate now, filled with the sadness of her mother’s back, her shoulders hunched and her head bowed. Miriam tried to remember a time when she’d seen her mother looking so vulnerable but she drew a blank; even when her mother had been hospitalized and unconscious, there had been an aura of self-possession about her.
To be continued . . .