May 28, 2024
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May 28, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Family Foundations: Chapter 6

Chapter 5 Summary: Yaffa resents the fact that Ari and his family are leaving her with all the work of getting ready for the party. In the middle of the anniversary party, Larry collapses.

For the space of a heartbeat, the entire family stood in shocked silence; then pandemonium broke loose.

“Larry! Larry!” Gail screamed. “Somebody do something!”

Ari raced over to his father. “Dad!” He put an ear to his mouth. “I can’t tell if he’s breathing.” He picked up his hand, frantically pressing a finger to his wrist. “I don’t think I feel a pulse,” he said, his own heart beating unnaturally fast.

“Hatzalah. I’ll call Hatzalah.” Yaffa picked up her phone from the table.

“911,” Shmuel said quickly. “We’re in Henryville, remember?”

“Oh, right.” Her hand shook as she pressed the buttons. “We’re in the middle of nowhere! How long will it even take them to come?”

Ari was still rubbing his father’s wrist, as panic rose. “Guys, I’m not finding a pulse! I’m not finding a pulse!”

Yaffa was now talking to the dispatcher, her voice growing increasingly high-pitched. “My father’s unconscious! We think he had a heart attack! We need you to come now. NOW! Um, where are we? Henryville…The address?” She looked around the room wildly. “What’s the address? Anybody? Oh my God…”

Shmuel grabbed the phone from his panicking wife and crisply relayed the address.

“Tell him there’s no pulse!” Ari yelled.

“Move over, Uncle Ari, let me.” Ari’s eyes widened as Matan appeared next to him and gently but confidently pushed him aside. He began to lift his grandfather off the chair. “Jake, give me a hand!” Together, the two boys carefully laid him on the floor. Matan tilted his grandfather’s head back and began administering quick chest compressions.

“What’s that?” Shmuel said into the phone. “Defibrillator? No we don’t have one, we’re in a private house! CPR? Um, yes, my nephew seems to be doing it right now… let me ask.” He lifted his head from the phone. “Matan, the dispatcher wants to know if you need any guidance.”

Without interrupting his compressions, Matan gave an Israeli tongue cluck and a quick shake of his head.

“No, he’s fine,” Shmuel said, hoping he really was. How old was Matan anyway?

Shmuel lifted his head from the phone again. “He said to keep it up until their paramedic arrives.”

Matan nodded. Sweat was dripping down his cheeks.

“How long?” Yaffa shrieked. “Shmuel, ask him how long until they get here?”

“He said about another 10 minutes.”

“Ten minutes? But he could be dead by then!”

Ari, hovering by Matan, asked, “Will you be able to hold out for another 10 minutes?”

Matan gave his forehead a quick swipe with his sleeve. “Don’t know,” he gasped. “I need someone to switch off. Jake?”

Jake’s eyes widened. “But I dunno how. What if I break something?”

Matan shot him a look, and Jake swallowed. “Okay,” he said, kneeling down. He watched his cousin for several seconds; then, feeling like he was nine years old again and about to dive into the deep end of the pool for the first terrifying time, he nodded at Matan and pressed down on his grandfather’s chest for all he was worth.

Shani and Tzippy were saying Tehillim. Ilana had led her mother away from the scene and was now sitting with her on the couch, cup of water in hand. Danny had gone outside to wait for the ambulance.

Several long minutes passed, measured in seconds, in heart compressions, in the sounds of Matan’s and Jake’s furious grunting.

And then the front door burst open. Two paramedics raced in, followed by Danny. One knelt down to examine Larry, pulling off his shirt, while the other turned on the defibrillator and began attaching electrode pads to Larry’s chest.

“Clear out of the way!”

Everyone took a step back. The paramedic nodded at his partner, who pressed a button on the machine. Larry’s body gave a tiny jolt. Yaffa gasped.

The paramedic resumed the chest compressions, as the family watched. Shani was sobbing. Ilana was clutching her mother’s hand, her face white.

“Is he alive?” Yaffa squealed.

After several long moments, the EMT looked up. He wiped his forehead. “Yes. He made it.”

***

“Aunt Yaffa? Is it okay if we take more food?”

Yaffa blinked at Eli. Ari and their mother had just left in the ambulance with Dad, headed to heaven knows what kind of hick town hospital. Now the rest of them were left to pick up the remnants of the party gone awry.

She glanced at the buffet table, so lavishly set up; the chafing dishes were still hot. “Of course,” she sighed. “What else are we going to do with it?”

Eli flashed a thumbs-up sign and began to fill his plate. Teenage boys, bless them. Yaffa herself had no more appetite.

She surveyed the party scene; several chairs were overturned and dirty plates were strewn across the floor. The flames on the scented candles were still flickering; Yaffa walked over and snuffed them out.

“Might as well save these for another time,” she murmured to no one in particular. She wondered what else from the décor was salvageable. Earlier, every ornament had seemed so essential; now, all she saw was a whole lot of wasted dollar bills.

What did it all matter, with Dad in the hospital, his survival still a question mark?

“Need some help?” Ilana walked over and put a hand on Yaffa’s arm. Yaffa looked up gratefully.

“I suppose we need to start cleaning up,” she said. She began rapidly collecting plates from the tables.

“Hey, is this disposable?” Ilana asked, plucking a plate from Yaffa’s pile.

Yaffa took it back. “Yeah, it is.”

“Could’ve fooled me…Do you know how many poor families in Israel could eat off that single plate?” Ilana winked.

“Hah, hah.” But Yaffa frowned as she looked down at the dish. “You don’t have to tell me how much money I wasted on this stupid party. Why’d I go so overboard?”

Ilana shrugged. “A fair question, sis, but something tells me that’s not really what’s bothering you right now.”

“No?” Yaffa wasn’t sure about that. For some reason, just thinking about the amount of ridiculous money and effort spent was making a lump well up in her throat. She blinked furiously.

Ilana gently took the pile of dirty plates from her and placed them back down on the table. “No.”

Yaffa stared at her for a moment. Then her face crumpled. “I should’ve gone to the hospital with them.” She clasped her hands together. “I should’ve insisted. Ari’s too nice a guy, he’ll just say yes to whatever the doctors tell him. And Ma, she’s no good in these situations, she falls apart.”

Ilana raised an eyebrow. “And you?”

“I know, I panicked before, but it was the shock of it.” Yaffa began to pace. “Who knows what kind of medical care he’ll get in this dinky hospital? Dad needs an advocate. Maybe I should drive over there?”

“No, you shouldn’t. Ari is very capable of handling things.” Ilana spoke with calm self-assurance.

“Yes, but…” Yaffa stopped. She didn’t really have a “but”; Ilana was right, Ari was capable. Was that what was bothering her? Ilana’s Matan had saved Dad’s life and Ari was the one taking care of him in the hospital, and she? What exactly was she good for? Spending gads of everyone’s money on luxury disposable tableware?

By Gila Arnold

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