Victory Gardens – Chapter 80


Mutty returns home and finds Papa in an unrecognizable state.


After Mama and Papa left the dining room, Mutty challenged Esther.

“You had no right to keep this news from us,” said Mutty. “Manny will go nuts when he finds out about Papa.”

If he finds out,” said Esther, an unmistakable note of warning in her voice.

“I’m telling him. He needs to know.”

“Mutty, please. We didn’t even realize what was happening until it was too late. Papa just started getting quieter and quieter, then he stopped davening in shul… It was very gradual. There was no point where we could look at each other and say something was really wrong with Papa. It got away from us.”

Mutty was holding his hand over his mouth, partly from distress and partly so that he wouldn’t say something to his sister-in-law that he would later regret.

“Listen here,” he said. “This is what we’re going to do. Tomorrow morning, I want a doctor to come examine Papa from head to toe. Let’s first make sure he is physically fine and then we will work on his state of mind. I cannot believe you let it get this far.”

“How about you listen?” Esther exclaimed. “I have been caring for your parents since Manny has been gone and I have done the best I possibly can for them. To yell at me and blame me is not very nice, Mordechai!”

“I’m sorry,” said Mutty. “But you can only imagine my surprise to come home and find my father incapacitated! It would have been nice to have had a little advance notice, don’t you think? And for sure, if he had known, Manny would have come back with me.”

“Don’t you think I would have wanted that? I didn’t tell him because your mother forbade me to. Do you think I am dying to uproot my whole life here and go live in the Holy Land? I will be happy to go along with everyone else when Moshiach comes, but not right now! It was nowhere in our plans. I’d have told Manny in one second if your mother would have let me.”

“Just like you told him you wanted your relatives to move into the apartment!” said Mutty.

Esther looked stricken. “Was he upset with me that I did that? I just thought it would be more practical to have someone stay in the apartment while we were away.”

“Oh, no. He actually thought it was a good idea. He was just surprised that you’d gotten so independent. I bet you’ve been having a fine old time here on your own!”

“Mordechai Rothstein, take those words back this instant! I will not be spoken to that way!”

“Shh, lower your voice. I don’t want Mama to hear!”

“Mama already heard,” said Mama, shuffling her way into the kitchen. “What are you arguing about already? Mutty hasn’t even been back 24 hours.”

“Nothing, Mama,” said Mutty. “Come,” he said, holding his arm out like a royal escort. “Let me walk you back to the couch.”

“No, I have something I’d like to say.” She turned to Esther. “My dear, I’m sorry that you feel that going to Eretz Yisrael isn’t in your plans, but I won’t deny my Manny his chance to live his own dreams for once. You know as well as I do that he has cared for our every need since he was old enough to do so. He’s not running away from anything, if that’s what you think.”

“I don’t think that, Mama. It’s just that it’s going to be a difficult adjustment for us, as if we don’t have enough problems already.”

“Well, that’s part of it. You’ll have something else to think about, different things to occupy your mind. Don’t the doctors say that it’s good to take your mind off the subject?”

“I appreciate your sensitivity Mama, but I’d prefer not to speak about these things in company.” She gestured with her chin to Mutty.

“I’m not a child. And you’re the one who brought it up,” Mutty said, clearly defending his mother.

“Mordechai Rothstein, you be quiet this instant,” Mama scolded.

Mutty looked down, ashamed at letting his frustration get the best of him.

“I’m sorry, Esther,” he mumbled. “That was uncalled for.”

“Thank you. Now, Mutty, you’re right. It’s not about your age, it’s about Esther’s privacy. I’m sorry, dear. Please forgive me.”

“I forgive you,” said Esther. “Can we just end this conversation now? It’s not going anywhere.”

“I’ll end it when you promise to get a doctor here first thing tomorrow.”

“Okay, Mutty. That’s what we’ll do,” said Mama.

“Esther, you’ll call,” said Mutty.

“All right,” she said.

“Esther, I’m going to send you home in a hired car. I don’t want you walking around late at night by yourself.”

“It’s not a problem. I’ve been walking myself since Manny’s been away.”

“Well I’m here now, and this is my decision.”

“Okay,” said Esther.

“Good night.”

Mutty left of the room, leaving Mama and Esther behind.

“What just happened?” said Esther.

“I’m not sure. I think Mutty grew up.”

“Should I really take a car home?” she asked.

“Absolutely. I should have thought of it on my own.”

To be continued . . .