June 10, 2024
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June 10, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chapter 23 summary: Ari’s and Yaffa’s families get together for a barbeque, where Ari’s taken aback to discover that Debbie and Yaffa have been plotting how to convince their parents to change the will. The cousins overhear their parents talking and are determined to discover what’s going on.


 

Ilana stared at the WhatsApp from Moriah. Hooray! Grandpa’s coming home! Major party planned. Would you believe I baked this cake??? (With Shani’s help ??). Underneath was a picture of a heart-shaped cake decorated with multi-hued fondant flowers that was so ornate, it could have stepped off a page of a magazine. Ilana’s brow creased.

Whoa, impressive! she wrote back. What she didn’t write: How unlike you. The Moriah she knew didn’t spend hours on cake decorating; she made fun of extravagant foods and tablescapes and found the whole concept of elegant superficialities an absurd waste of time. Why, it was just a few short weeks ago that Moriah had stalked into their room in the Airbnb muttering about killing her arms hanging heavy curtains for the anniversary party because of some people’s ridiculous insistence on “atmosphere.”

And now she was showing off her fancy cake? Was this the influence her American cousins were having on her?

Ilana forwarded the picture to Danny and wrote, I think it’s time for her to come home!

She sat down on the couch. It certainly was time; Moriah was staying much longer than Ilana had ever anticipated. She supposed she should be happy that her daughter was enjoying herself with her cousins; when else would she have the opportunity to develop a real relationship with her extended family? The true sacrifice of aliyah…

Ilana sighed, reading Moriah’s message once more. Major party planned. She could just picture Yaffa’s and Ari’s families all in on the excitement, coming together to welcome Dad, back in the loving embrace of his family… everyone except her.

She stood up restlessly. You’d think, after so many years, she’d be over this jealousy. Pursing her lips, she picked up her phone and typed once more to Moriah.

Please buy flowers from me and Abba, to welcome Grandpa home. And, picturing Yaffa taking charge of Dad’s transition back home and Ari on call 24 hours a day for all of his parents’ needs, Ilana couldn’t help feeling like a good-for-nothing as she added: The biggest bouquet you can find.

***

Debbie arrived at her in-laws’ house with her kids just as Shani, Tzippy and Moriah were putting the finishing touches on the festive welcome home buffet.

Yaffa came bustling over to the door. “Great, you’re here. Jake, Eli, you can blow up balloons.” She handed them a bag. “Wait, where’s Ari?”

“He’s at work,” Debbie said, eyebrow raised.

Yaffa stopped. “I thought he was going to pick up my father from the rehab center.”

Debbie pursed her lips. “There must have been a miscommunication. Ari can’t just take off of work whenever he feels like it. As it is he’s missed too much over the past few weeks.”

Yaffa stared at her sister-in-law. Ari had clearly told both her and their mother that he’d bring Dad home today. Now Debbie had to go and interfere. Why? Because she refused to do any more favors for his parents? Like Yaffa wasn’t feeling bitter herself? Yet she’d pushed herself to throw a nice homecoming for her father, and even gone along with all of Shani’s party-planning excesses.

Yaffa took a breath. “Got it. So I guess I’ll drive Mom to pick him up.”

Not even acknowledging that she’d put Yaffa out, Debbie walked over to the table. “Nice. Who bought the flowers?”

Yaffa’s voice hardened slightly. “Ilana.”

Debbie whistled. “Must’ve cost her quite a lot.”

Yaffa shrugged. It was all right for Ilana, sitting out in Israel, to spring for an extravagant welcome home gift; what did she know from the resentment and conflicting emotions they were all going through over here, the daily challenge of pushing yourself to help when you really wanted to scream, cry, or close your eyes and ignore?

Debbie gave a slow smile. “Here, let me add my present to the pile.”

She pulled a magazine out of her bag and, with a wink, placed it on the table next to the flowers. “Give them some light reading material while he recuperates.”

It was a Newsweek magazine from 2017, and one of the cover features was titled, “When Parents Disinherit Children.”

***

“Can you believe it’s been almost two months since you’ve been home, Larry?” Gail asked as Yaffa pulled the car into the driveway. “The last time you left this house was to go on our anniversary vacation!”

Yaffa blinked; how could that be? The vacation felt like ages ago. She glanced at her father sitting next to her, and tried to read his expression. Did it depress him to think about how his life had changed so drastically since then? It certainly depressed her. Back then, she’d still seen her parents as the loving, kindly, simple people that they’d always been throughout her life. How had her entire world shifted in just a few short weeks? This was her first time seeing Dad since their discovery of the will, and she was finding it hard to jive the father she knew with the cold facts on that paper.

The three of them sat silently for a moment, looking up at the house, perhaps each contemplating the challenges that lay ahead.

“You made his bed, right?” her mother asked.

“Yes, Mom, the room is all set up for him,” Yaffa answered patiently. Jake and Eli had moved one of the spare beds downstairs to the den, where her father would be sleeping until he was strong enough to climb stairs. Her mother had thoroughly inspected the room herself just this morning.

She started to open the car door when her mother cried out, “Wait! His medication! We need to refill his prescriptions!”

“I went to the pharmacy yesterday, remember?”

Yaffa twisted in her seat and squinted at her mother. It was scary how much her mother’s mental state had been affected by her father’s illness; she’d never been forgetful like this. Baruch Hashem, Yaffa had succeeded in convincing her mother to try out the aide. Marie would hopefully be arriving in an hour, after they’d had a chance to settle in.

She helped her father as he painstakingly made his way up the steps to the house. He smiled as he read the colorful Welcome Home signs. Yaffa unlocked the front door and…

“Surprise!” They were instantly surrounded by squealing grandchildren.

“Oh, how lovely!” Gail exclaimed, looking around at the balloons, the cakes, the flowers.

But Larry took a step back, hands thrust out, as if keeping the crowd at bay. “I need to lie down,” he muttered. He started towards the steps, and then stopped, confused. Yaffa rushed forward. “We set up a bedroom for you downstairs; let me help you.”

She helped him walk down the hall and into the den. He paused by the doorway. “This – looks – different,” he said, his speech still painstaking.

No kidding. “Yes, we brought a bed in here for you to sleep. You’ve got the best location in the house, right off the kitchen! You can sneak some midnight snacks without Mom knowing!”

Yaffa winced; yes, she was talking to her father like he was a 2-year-old.

Larry shook his head impatiently as he scanned the room: the bookshelves, the filing cabinet, the desk. He slowly walked over to the desk and lifted a pile of papers. He opened a drawer, peered inside and frowned.

He looked up at Yaffa. “Some – one’s – been – going – through – my – papers.” The tone of his voice was unmistakably accusing.


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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