Victory Gardens – Chapter 114


One of Hearst’s thugs and his Arab henchman break into Esther and Manny’s home. Achmed recognizes Manny as Mutty’s brother, remembering Mutty as a loyal friend of the family from Chevron, and saves the Rothsteins from the thug.

*   *   *

It took Esther and Manny a long time to recover from the break-in. They didn’t trust Achmed, and they had no idea whether the attackers would return. Manny was so fearful every time he left the house that he began to carry an iron bar inside his sleeve. This small thing, along with his heartfelt davening, afforded him a measure of comfort. Manny spoke to the Roshei Yeshivah about his current situation, and they blessed him and Esther that they should have health and safety.

In New York, life continued apace until the morning Papa stepped into the kitchen where Mama and Mutty were drinking coffee and eating apple strudel.

“Ephraim Mordechai, did Manny give you power of attorney over my funds?”

Mutty, with a mouthful of strudel, stared dumbstruck at his father.

He swallowed quickly and tried to continue without missing a beat, grateful to Hashem for the question but not knowing whether it reflected Papa’s full awareness. Cautiously, he attempted to gauge that.

“Good morning, Papa. May I ask what has prompted this question?” Mutty continued.

“We need to bring them home immediately,” said Papa.

“Why is that, Papa?” Even Mama looked his way this time.

“You know why,” said Papa.

Mutty searched his memory frantically and, of course, the only reason he could come up with was the one he was keeping from Mama. He stood up and took his father by the arm. “Come, Papa, may we please talk in the other room?”

Papa shook his arm off. “Where are you taking me? There’s nothing that can’t be said in front of Mama.”

Afraid of antagonizing him further, Mutty removed his arm and stood quietly while Papa spoke. While most of Papa’s personality had returned, he seemed to be missing that vital element of sensitivity. Mutty prayed for its return, preferably right that very moment.

“We need to send Manny and Esther ship tickets right away. They need to come home before Esther  — .”

Mama looked up sharply, and sucked her breath in.

“Jozef,” she interrupted, unable to finish her sentence.

“Mama,” said Mutty, unable to finish his.

“What are you saying?” said Mama.

“Mama, it’s nothing,” said Mutty. “We heard something by Mr. Hearst, but how would he know anything? He was trying to bait us.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Papa. “I’ve been in contact with Dr. Wallach, and indeed, Esther has been a patient at Shaare Zedek hospital. It’s a fact.”

“Why didn’t you tell me before?” asked Mama, looking back and forth between the two of them.

”Mama, in case it wasn’t true. Who knows? We didn’t want you to worry,” said Mutty.

“Worry, nothing! They need my tefillos! How could you deprive me of the opportunity to daven for them?”

Mutty was speechless. Would he ever fathom the depths of his mother?

“So you must telegram them immediately that they are required home. I will not allow my grandchild to be subjected to primitive medical conditions.”

“Papa, I wouldn’t go so far as to call the Holy Land primitive,” Mutty interjected.

“Think what you like. You are not the one in charge here. I am, and I demand that you withdraw money from my account so we can purchase shiffskarten for them.”

“I… I would still need Manny’s permission,” said Mutty.

“Not this time. First thing tomorrow morning, go and withdraw the money. I will purchase the tickets and send them special delivery. There’s not a moment to waste.”

Mutty had a feeling this was going to be a fool’s errand, because he didn’t believe Manny would want to return home. He would send Papa’s telegram, but he would also send one of his own along with it. Many times since he took on Papa’s care, Manny had made significant decisions for his father. At first it was very difficult to do, but by now it had become a normal fact of life, part of Papa’s healing.

Manny knew that Papa was still in transition. What he did not know was which end of the spectrum was prompting Papa’s command. The Papa he knew would never, ever withdraw money from Manny’s account without his permission. Suddenly, the pieces fell together and he realized what Papa had actually said.

“Papa, do you mean that I should take the money from your account?”

“Of course. I gave Manny power of attorney before he left, in case he needed it while he was in Eretz Yisrael. In case of emergency.”

Mutty looked closely at Papa, trying to determine the validity of this statement. As far as he knew, Papa and Mama had lost everything. There was nothing to have power of attorney over, was there? Was Papa just trying to save face? Mutty would have to get this straightened out with Manny as soon as possible.

“Ephraim Mordechai, I am coming with you to the telegraph office,” said Papa. “Get ready to go. Every moment is precious.”

Mutty felt panicky. If Papa was there with him it was doubtful he’d be able to send a separate telegram. “Papa, I think Mama needs you to stay here with her. I don’t mind going to the telegraph office.”

“Your mother is stronger than any of us realize. It is I who need her, not the other way around.”

Isn’t that the truth, thought Mutty. It would be Mama who would surprise them all. in the end. He was sure of it.


To be continued . . .