Victory Gardens – Chapter 71

Novel

Mama informs Esther that Papa seems to be in a state of shock over recent events. Mama doesn’t want Manny to come home because of this, but Esther is very concerned.

*   *   *

“So, that is the whole story,” Manny concluded, brushing crumbs from his beard. Manny didn’t know who Mrs. Zayit was, but she was an excellent baker. She’d made some sort of pastry with a flaky dough and spiced potato inside, and it may have been the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted.

“I thought I had the whole thing figured out,” Manny continued. “The Rabbanim had practically given me a psak to remain in Yerushalayim with Mutty. It was much more than just advice. And it was all falling into place. My wife was happy about it…”

Zayit interrupted Manny’s narrative for the first time since he’d started speaking. “Are you sure about that?”

“About what?”

“That your wife was ‘happy about it,’ as you say, willing to join you here?”

“Of course she was. Why shouldn’t she be?”

“It’s a big move, a big decision to make on one foot.”

“She can handle it,” said Manny, dismissing Zayit’s concerns. Zayit wondered whether to continue pushing the point, but he realized that Manny seemed to have a blind spot when it came to others’ feelings.

“It isn’t like she has too much to leave behind – or pack up,” Manny continued. “She might enjoy a new view of the world.”

Zayit shifted uncomfortably, intuiting that Manny had not yet been blessed with children, and wondering whether Manny knew how well Zayit understood that challenge.

“In any case, it doesn’t feel right leaving my parents alone in this situation. They are elderly. How will they manage without my help?”

“You are a good son,” said Zayit.

“I don’t know about good, but yes, I am aware of my responsibilities and I take them seriously. So what does it mean when my father tells me to remain here when I know he needs me?”

“It means he’s a father like any other father, unwilling to accept help from his son.”

“But my father isn’t like that. If it wasn’t for his insistence, I would never have come here to look for my brother.”

“Really?” Zayit mulled that over. If it had been any one of his siblings, he’d have moved heaven and earth to find him, and Orna would have supported him completely.

“Really. I’m not proud of myself, but I would never have left my wife, my business, if my father hadn’t insisted. So it isn’t that he’s reluctant to take my help in some situations.”

“It sounds like he’s embarrassed, like he doesn’t want you to see him compromised,” said Zayit. “In any case, I want to point out something to you that you may find suprising.”

“What’s that?”

“You have a brother.”

“So?”

“So I would like to suggest to you, if I may, that you consider the possibility of sending your brother home while you remain here.”

“Send Mutty home?” Manny nearly burst out laughing. “That’s absurd. Didn’t you yourself say he’s shell-shocked? How could he be of any help to my parents?”

Zayit winced at Manny’s dismissal of the young friend who had become very dear to him. “You would be surprised,” said Zayit. “A ben-zekunim can do things for his parents that other siblings cannot do. There is a special relationship there that older children cannot fathom. They may feel less intimidated, less exposed, by accepting help from him rather than from you.”

“But I’m the one with the money!” said Manny.

“And that’s why we call money zuzim, isn’t it? It’s one of its few redeeming characteristics, that it can be transferred so readily from hand to hand and place to place.”

“I don’t know. It sounds unrealistic to me. Like Mutty could ever figure out what to do. He’s just a child!”

Zayit looked at Manny, willing him to understand that so much had changed. At this point in their lives, Mutty was probably more mature than Manny was, even though Manny was already a husband and a business owner.

Zayit stood up to go. “Just think about what I said. You may find that the solution is directly in front of you and you are too stubborn to acknowledge it.”

“I doubt that, but thank you. And please thank your wife for the delicious breakfast. It was truly outstanding.”

Zayit suddenly had a thought. “There’s more where that came from. Why don’t you and your brother join us for Shabbat this week?”

“Shabbat? With you and your family?”

“With myself and my wife, yes.”

“You have no children?”

“No.”

“Oh.”

“What do you say? Shabbat?”

“How will we get there?”

“I’ll come get you with the wagon. Please, accept.”

“Okay, I accept. Thank you. I’m sure Mutty will be thrilled.”

“He’s a wonderful man,” said Zayit.

“He’s a good boy,” said Manny. “We’ll see you before Shabbat. Thank you again.”

To be continued . . .