June 24, 2024
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June 24, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chapter 12 Summary: Ilana meets with the head of her graduate program and agrees to his conditions for acceptance, despite being uncomfortable with the program’s liberal values. Yaffa convinces her mother to hire an aide, and Gail agrees for Yaffa to speak to their accountant about their finances.


 

“Thanks for making the time to meet with us, Mr. Pinsky,” Yaffa said, as she and Ari sat down across from the accountant. “As I’m sure you heard, our father recently had a serious medical incident. My brother and I feel it’s the right time to get a picture of our parents’ finances, in case we need to make decisions for them or help them manage their finances.”

The accountant nodded. “Yes, when your mother called to give me permission to speak to you, I told her it was a wise idea. I’ve seen too many children pulling their hair out trying to piece together their elderly parents’ finances only once they’re incapacitated or after death.” He cleared his throat. “So what would you like to know?”

“What kind of income and savings do they have?” Ari asked. “Are they set up OK for retirement? How tight is their budget?”

“And do they have money for extra medical expenses, like hiring a full-time aide?” Yaffa added.

Pinsky’s eyes widened. “Money for extras? But I thought … You mean, they never told you?”

Yaffa and Ari exchanged glances as the accountant drummed his fingers on the table for several seconds.

“Told us what?” Ari prodded.

Pinsky stopped his drumming and picked up a piece of paper from the stack on his desk. “This is Larry and Gail Taubman’s 2021 tax return. As of last year, their net worth, including investments and real estate holdings, was about 15 million dollars.”

Yaffa’s hand clutched at the edge of the desk, while Ari sucked in his breath.

“Fifteen million dollars?” Yaffa echoed weakly. “What in the world? Are you sure that’s not a mistake?”

The accountant shook his head, his lips twitching faintly. “I’ve been doing their taxes for the past 30 years. This isn’t a mistake.”

“But… where did they get that kind of money?”

Pinsky lifted a shoulder. “Your father has always been a careful saver. And also, clearly, a shrewd investor. He’s very proud of these investments; he loves talking to me about how they’re doing.”

“But not to us? Their very own children?” Yaffa didn’t know why she should feel so hurt, but she did, intensely so. More than hurt—betrayed. And, looking at Ari’s stunned face, she could tell he felt exactly the same.

***

Ari was still in a daze when he dropped Yaffa off by their parents’ house. Before she got out of the car, she asked, yet again, “You’re really sure we shouldn’t say anything?”

Ari didn’t feel very sure of anything at the moment; he felt like his entire perception of the world had turned upside down. But quietly, he said, “Dad clearly didn’t want us to know about this. Mom gave us permission on her own to talk to Pinsky, and she seems to have only had a vague idea herself of their finances. I don’t think it’s right for us to bring it up, just because Dad’s out of commission.”

“But why?” Yaffa clenched her hand around her purse. “Why didn’t Dad want us to know about it? Was he worried that … that … we’d have too many expectations? That we’d be asking him for money all the time?”

Ari looked at her. “Maybe.”

“But you’d think he could trust us. We’ve proven ourselves over the years; we’ve all managed on our own. Besides, that just seems so… selfish. I mean, if you have $15 million sitting in the bank, why not share it with your kids?” Her eyes suddenly narrowed. “And to think we all overstretched ourselves to pay for that anniversary party! When we’re in the middle of renovations and are still paying off Shmuel’s school loans, plus our credit card debt from his kollel years… and Ilana’s living in Israel, Danny makes an Israeli salary… and here they could have so easily said, ‘No, it’s OK, we’ll pay for it all’!”

Ari noticed that she didn’t include him in her list of the financially strapped siblings, but, as much as his instinct was to defend their parents and keep the peace, he found himself agreeing wholeheartedly with Yaffa’s resentment. Imagine how different he and Debbie would have felt following his bad investment, if they’d known that his parents had the means to help him out!

He shook his head. “I don’t know what to say. I’m just as confused as you are. Maybe they prefer to save it for, you know, the future? As an inheritance?”

Yaffa gave a bitter laugh. “What, give us a grand surprise after they’re dead? What’s the point of that?”

Ari shrugged. He didn’t see the point, either. Sighing, he said, “Let’s talk more later, OK? Debbie’s expecting me home now.”

He hadn’t told Debbie that he was leaving work early to go to this appointment; he’d assumed it wouldn’t go over well. So he didn’t say anything about this bombshell when he came home, simply listening quietly as Debbie spoke about her day while she chopped vegetables in the kitchen.

“And I took Jake shopping. It’s unbelievable how many of his undershirts and socks from last year are completely unwearable. I’m telling you, those Israeli washing machines must shred the clothing.”

“Hmm,” Ari responded, trying to sound sympathetic.

“And then there’s Jake himself,” Debbie continued. “That boy can be so infuriating, it makes me scream. Can you please tell me what in the world is wrong with letting your great-aunt kiss you? I took him to visit my Aunt Helen today; she hadn’t seen him since he came back from Israel. So she comes to hug and kiss him, and he says, ‘Sorry, Aunt Helen, I don’t do that anymore.’ The lady’s 70!” She glared at Ari, as if it was his fault. “And you still think it’s a good idea to send him back for Shana Bet?”

Ari rubbed his temple. Hadn’t they had this conversation already? “He’s going, Debs, we decided that already months ago. Why bring it up again?”

“Because now I see what one year did to him!” She waved her knife in the air. “And because it’s spending a lot of money we don’t have.”

Ari’s shoulders stiffened. Money they don’t have… this had been even more of a refrain over the past few weeks than Jake’s outrages. It made Ari shrivel with guilt every time Debbie made those comments—but now, the picture had suddenly changed. They did have money—or, at least, his parents did. Which was pretty much the same. Fifteen million dollars… for the first time, he allowed his mind to wander off from the shock and bewilderment at why his parents had kept this such a secret, and think about the thing itself. He and his siblings had grown up solidly middle class, and that’s what they were today as well. But suddenly, everything was different. They were now a family with money. Fifteen million dollars!

And, to Debbie’s astonishment, Ari slowly began to chuckle.


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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