July 21, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chapter 9 Summary: Debbie and Ari resent the fact that they’re bearing the brunt of transporting his mother to visit his father at the rehab center every day and Debbie convinces Ari to ask Yaffa to pull more weight. Ilana contemplates life after her children leave home and considers going back to school to finish her degree.


 

Yaffa ran a dish towel across the counter; it seemed sacrilegious to leave crumbs or spills in a brand-new kitchen. Just as she’d finished wiping everything down, Shani walked in, rubbing her eyes.

“Whaddaya make for breakfast? Anything interesting?” She opened the fridge and pulled out the tray of leftover pancakes that Yaffa had just put away. Plate, fork, knife, syrup and coffee mug quickly filled up the table Yaffa had just cleaned. She glanced at the clock; 12:15.

“Is this breakfast or lunch?” she asked, trying to keep her voice judgment-free, the way the rebbetzin taught in the Chinuch for Teens class she attended.

“Both.” Shani grinned. “Isn’t that the fun of summer vacation?” She sat down and began pouring syrup on her pancake.

Yaffa hung up the dish towel. “So, do you have any plans today?”

“Yeah, Faigy, Chana and I want to go to the Freehold mall. School’s starting soon and I need a ton of clothes.”

Yaffa cocked her head. “Don’t you wear a uniform?”

Shani rolled her eyes. “Sundays, Ma. Plus, there’s shoes, tights, accessories. And I badly need a new bag; the one I’ve been using is from, like two years ago.”

Yaffa clenched her hand. Taking a breath, she said, “I have an idea. How would you like to learn something together?”

Shani’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Huh? Learn something? You mean, like, take an art class?”

“No, I mean open a sefer and learn a meaningful topic together.”

Shani stared at her for a moment. “That’s … random. What’s going on, Ma? Are you on, like, some kind of self-improvement kick? Are you gonna start growing sprouts and microgreens next?”

Was her daughter seriously comparing Torah to sprouts? Yaffa pursed her lips.

“Tatty learns everyday with your cousin Jake. So why can’t we learn together, too? We’re both on vacation, we have the time. I thought it would be nice.”

Shani’s expression clearly showed just what she thought of the idea. But before she could answer, Yaffa’s phone rang.

Ari.

Her heart skipped a beat. Ari wasn’t the kind of brother who called just to schmooze.

“Hi, how’s it going?” she asked.

“Fine. You?”

She didn’t like how tense Ari sounded.

“Baruch Hashem. Everything okay with Mom and Dad?”

“Yes, everything’s the same. Dad seems to be making progress in rehab, though he’s clearly taken a big hit cognitively. It’s hard for Mom to see him that way, but she’s been great at keeping up her spirits at each of our visits.”

There was a pause.

Yaffa shifted on her feet uncomfortably. She knew Ari was doing more than she in caring for their parents. Feeling the need to prove herself, she said, “Yes, I can tell from talking to her. I’ve also been speaking to Dad’s therapists almost every day by phone, to keep up with his progress. It’s important to show that we’re involved, so that they work him as hard as possible.”

“Oh—absolutely,” Ari said.

Quickly, she continued, “And I’ve started looking into aides for when Dad comes home. I’ve been calling different agencies. Of course, we need to find out what their insurance will cover. I wonder if Mom knows; I doubt it.”

“Me, too,” Ari said. “Uh, thanks for looking into that.” He cleared his throat. “Listen … you know I’ve been taking Mom every day. It’s my pleasure, of course, but the problem is that the visiting hours are only during the day. I’ve had to take off a lot of work.”

Yaffa’s insides squirmed. “Do you think Mom really needs to go every day? Why can’t she go every other day?”

“She could, I guess,” Ari said quietly. “But it makes both her and Dad so happy; it’s really what they need right now.”

Yaffa mechanically wiped a puddle of maple syrup that had drizzled on the floor as her mouth twisted. Couldn’t her brother for once be selfish and put his own needs ahead of everyone else’s? Not that she didn’t admire his compassion, but, gosh, did he realize how guilty it made all the rest of them feel?

What did he expect her to do? Drive two hours in each direction every day to take her mother to the center, when she had a houseful of children on vacation to take care of?

Not that it was fair for it all to fall on Ari, of course.
But …

“Why can’t she take a car service? Mom’s perfectly capable of managing on her own in the rehab center.”

Shani looked up curiously, and Yaffa felt her cheeks turn red. Was she being callous to her mother’s needs, in front of her own daughter no less?

“It’s very emotional for her, and she really appreciates having—”

“—Of course, of course, forget what I said,” Yaffa mumbled. She took a breath, as she suddenly made a decision. “Okay, you definitely deserve a break, but it’s not practical for me to drive back and forth every day. So how about I come out to stay by Mom for a week, and this way I can take care of things from up close and drive her back and forth every day?”

Ari coughed in surprise. “Wow, Yaffa, that’s a lot. Are you sure? Who’s going to take care of your family?”

“Shani will. She’s very capable and she’s happy to help.” Yaffa willed those words to be true as she beamed a confident smile at her daughter—who responded with an indignant glare of her own.

***

“Todah rabah, Professor. I’ll be in touch.” Ilana hung up the phone and walked into the living room, whistling triumphantly.

Danny was at the dining room table, hunched over his laptop and Matan was sprawled on the couch, laughing at something on his phone. Watching him, Ilana felt her heart lurch. How could it be that in just a few short weeks, this boy of hers would be wearing an IDF uniform?

Danny looked up. “What are you so happy about?”

“Guess who I just got off the phone with?” Her eyes twinkled. “Nah, you’ll never guess. Professor Amir Goldfarb, who was in charge of my doctoral program at Tel Aviv University back in the day.”

Danny blinked. “You’re right, I’d never have guessed. Why did he call you?”

“I called him. I wanted to ask him about finishing my PhD.”

Her husband was clearly nonplussed. “After all these years?”

“Yup. It’s high time I finish it, huh? It’s been so long, I was worried I’d have to start from scratch, but Professor Goldfarb said I wouldn’t have to redo my coursework, just the thesis. Which makes sense. I mean, whatever research I did is totally out of date by now.”

Matan looked up. “What’s this, Ima? Didn’t you do your original doctorate in some weird and completely useless subject? Philosophy or something like that? Why even bother finishing?”

Ilana laughed indulgently. “Anthropology, and it’s not useless. Think about all the archeological digs going on here, and how the scientists need to be able to piece together earlier cultures. But it’s also about our lives today, how different societies interact, why people behave the way they do, even how we interact with technology …”

Matan gave a big yawn. “Sounds fascinating.” His eyes drifted back to his phone.

Okay, she couldn’t really expect an 18-year-old to understand her excitement about having taken a step back into the academic world that was supposed to have been her life. She turned toward Danny.

“Isn’t this great?” she asked.

But her voice trailed off as she saw her husband frowning and slowly shaking his head.


Ariella Aaron is an internationally published writer with a unique talent for writing stories that are entertaining and thought-provoking, with characters who are eminently relatable. A former resident of northern New Jersey, Ariella has now transplanted her family to Israel, where she is happily living the dream of raising her brood in our homeland.

 

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