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Clear Vision

This was an emergency. My mind raced. It could be nothing. It could be something. It could be congenital or genetic. Or then again, it could be nothing

"Hi there.” George waved a gloved hand, making a show of allowing me entrance to Cornell’s parking garage.

“Thanks!” I waved back. “It’s cold out here, George, stay safe, and happy New Year.” I neatly maneuvered the car and retrieved my liaison badge from the dashboard so I’d be allowed entry into the hospital.

Even the few seconds of spotty reception in the garage were a few seconds too many. Predictably, my phone buzzed as soon as I stepped outside.

I skirted a sign in front of a CVS pharmacy reading No Mask, No Entry and blinked in the sunlight. I pulled on my mask and resigned myself to a couple of hours of oxygen deprivation.


“Mrs. Waller?” It was Sima Hoffer calling from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

“Yes, Sima,” I said warmly.

Yad Perel had coordinated her husband’s transfer to the Mayo Clinic. It hadn’t been simple, but it had to be done. He’d almost lost his battle with COVID, and although he survived by a miracle, his kidney function was compromised, and the local hospitals were too overwhelmed to treat him properly.

“I just wanted to share with you that Shloimy’s kidney function went up to 60 percent over Shabbos. His system is really waking up!”

“Baruch Hashem, Sima! That’s wonderful news. Does the doctor come in regularly? Is Shloimy getting nursing care? Can we send you anything?”

“Don’t worry. We’re getting VIP service. They even call us Waller patients.” Her voice was light and optimistic, unlike the last few times we’d spoken. “There’s no way we can ever thank you for everything,” she said emotionally.

“Good, good. Don’t thank me, I’m just the shaliach, and thanks for calling with the good news. This keeps us going.”

“Good things come from good shluchim,” she said earnestly. “Oh, and Mrs. Waller, I hope you don’t mind, but I gave your cell number to a woman I met here.”

If I received a nickel for every time someone passed on my cell number, we wouldn’t have to do a single fundraiser. “Sure, with pleasure. What does she need?”

“Similar story to ours. Her husband also had COVID and was on a ventilator for weeks. Now his kidneys aren’t functioning. The doctors are talking transplant.”

I sighed. “Don’t worry, Sima. I’ll do my best. If you need anything, call me or the office.”

My other phone was vibrating now. Now that number was a serious secret.

“Hello?” A hesitant voice. “Is this Mrs. Waller?” There was a world of confusion in that one sentence. And tears.

“Yes, it is. Can I help you with anything?” I stopped walking.

“I don’t know,” she faltered. Her voice was very young.

“It’s always good to start at the beginning.”

“So, m-my baby,” her voice got stuck on the word baby. “I went to the doctor on Friday, and the doctor wasn’t happy with the way she looked.” She paused. “I wasn’t, either. Her skin was funny looking and yellowish. She was sleeping too much, you know?”

Her voice cracked, and she started crying.

“Is this your first?” I asked.


“And how old is she?”

“Four months.”

“Did you try calling my office?” Some calls were just more painful than others.

“N-no. Someone, uh, gave me your cell number.” Her voice fell. “I wasn’t allowed to call you?”

“Hey lady! Get a move on, will ya?” A man pushed me slightly. I’d been standing in the middle of the sidewalk for a while now.


He grunted. I sighed. My office was a waste of overhead. All my secret cell numbers took care of that.

“Don’t worry. I’ll do my best to help you. So tell me, what did the doctor say?”

She calmed down somewhat. The lights turned red, and I joined the masses of masked people crossing.

“So the doctor thought I should do bloodwork right away,” she continued. “So I went. I mean, my husband took her.”

“And?” I prodded. There was already a new voicemail and many missed calls. But every clue was important.

“So the doctor called me now and said I should take her to the hospital right away because the numbers are very high.” She was sobbing openly now. I stopped walking again.

“Which numbers?”

“I don’t know. Was I supposed to ask?” She sounded so helpless.

“Never mind. When were you at the doctor last, before Friday’s visit?”

“It was my first visit. We did Telehealth before.”

“I see. What’s your name?”

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t introduce myself. My name is Speilman. Rikki Speilman.”

This was an emergency. My mind raced. It could be nothing. It could be something. It could be congenital or genetic. Or then again, it could be nothing.

“Do you have a patient portal?”

“A what?” she asked, hysterical again.

“Don’t worry. Where do you live?”

Another caller was beeping. I quickly checked — Goldy. She could wait.


“Okay. Your best bet is Columbia at this point.”

“You mean we really have to go to the hospital?” her voice quivered. It was the voice of denial.

“Yes. You and your husband should head out as soon as possible. I’ll speak to the hepatology department right now. Take along overnight stuff. They’ll allow both parents in the ER. Only one will be able to go up once she’s admitted.”

I gave her a minute to absorb all this. It was important for her to know that admittance was inevitable.

“Take all your insurance information along. If they ask which doctor is handling your case, say Dr. Warfman. And text me your name, your baby’s name, your phone number, pediatrician’s name and number, and insurance ID. Wear a mask at all times, and the quicker you get there, the better.”

I heard her gasp.

“Don’t worry, Rikki,” I said warmly. “It could be nothing. But we need to rule everything out. I’ll call you in an hour to make sure you’re on the way.”

I ended the call and got to work. I was standing in front of Cornell where I had to meet the cardiologist managing the Brander case at twelve. He was giving up his lunch break for this. A real mensch, Dr. McGrath. It was 11:45, maybe I could still catch Dr. Warfman between patients. Or maybe get hold of the bloodwork first.

I saw eight missed calls, all from Goldy. I smiled. What could be so important? Did Perela sleep too little or too much? Was it the eggplant or the broccoli that made her cry through the night?

I’d waited long enough to have a daughter ask me all those questions. Daughters-in-law didn’t do that.

I scrolled through my contacts for Dr. Warfman’s phone number when the phone rang again. Goldy again. What was so important?

“Hi, Goldy,” I said, “I’m in Manhattan, I have an urgent phone call to make and an appointment in fifteen minutes. I’ll call you as soon as I’m on the way back to Brooklyn.”

“Ma?” I heard something trembling in her voice, similar to the woman I’d just spoken to. “Ma? There’s something wrong with Perela.”

  

Three hours later, I literally banged down Goldy’s door.

Open up. Let me see my Perela.

The door opened a crack.

“Ma!” Goldy sagged with relief. Her eyes were raw and red and whatever makeup she’d applied that morning was smudged on the lower half of her cheeks. As soon as the door closed behind me, she sank onto my shoulder. I staggered from the sudden weight, and hugged my only daughter fiercely while patting her back softly.

“It’ll be okay, don’t worry,” I whispered. “You’re in the best possible hands.”

I led her to the couch in the dining room and sat her down. Perela was snuggled in the Doona, a little bonnet with a delicate ruffle framing her cheeks. I gently picked her up and allowed the smell of Jonhson & Johnson to fill me up. I blinked back my tears. Then she opened her big green eyes and looked straight at me.

Her right eye shifted to the side.

“Goldy, listen to me,” I practically begged. “I spoke to Dr. Lamberg already, and it’ll be all right.” Dr. Lamberg had been Goldy’s pediatrician and now she was caring for the next generation of Wallers, or rather Schonsteins.

“Ma, I can’t,” she bawled. The few residual pounds from the birth seemed to be shrinking away. I was getting fed up. Come on, get a hold of yourself.

“Goldy, look at me now,” I said firmly. “You can’t fall apart before you even know if there’s anything wrong with her. You’ll have plenty of time to cry at her chuppah.”

Goldy wiped her eyes and looked up at me.

“Chuppah?” she whispered. “She might die. The doctor said it might be dangerous.”

I looked around Goldy’s sweet chassan-kallah apartment we’d set up only a year and a bit ago. That’s how quickly dreams evaporate? The wedding portrait, with the wide smiles and dreamy eyes, seemed incongruent with the sadness eating up every air molecule.

“Where’s Yeruchem?”

“Minchah. It was getting late,” she defended him. She did that a lot.

I laid the baby back in the Doona and headed to the kitchen to get Goldy a drink.

“Here, drink. You can’t feed your baby if you stop drinking.”

Goldy drank.

“Did you eat anything at all?”

She shook her head.

“You’ll eat soon. Now, go make yourself presentable.”

Goldy shifted listlessly.

“You have an appointment for an MRI in an hour. The results will be back tonight. Now go.”

She did as she was told.

Yeruchem rang the bell and opened the door. Who rang their own doorbells? He looked around warily for his wife.

“Hi, Yeruchem, you can use Tatty’s car. It’s in the driveway. The appointment should take about an hour.” I had so much to do and had to get going. The office was overflowing with work, and I hadn’t even stepped foot in there today.

My phone buzzed. Mrs. Speilman was calling. I motioned for Yeruchem to wait.

“Mrs. Waller, I’m in Columbia already.” Her voice was steadier.

“Good, Mrs. Speilman. It might take a few hours, but once you’re in a room, things will go quicker. I spoke to your pediatrician. She sent the bloodwork to Dr. Warfman. He’ll make sure to review your case tonight, and they’ll decide on a plan by tomorrow.”

The labs were really bad. But there was no use telling her that.

I hung up after informing her where she could find food and coffee and turned back to Yeruchem. “It’s on 21st Avenue — the MRI place.”

Yeruchem looked lost, his boyish face clouding over.

“What? When? Where? Can you please slow down?”

I wasn’t good at slowing down. Not when Perela’s eye was at stake.

“We need imaging, Yeruchem. The doctors have to know what they’re dealing with. After the report, I decide which doctor is best for Perela.”

“I think she’s just cross-eyed. I also had that when I was a baby and it got fixed on its own. She takes after me.” This was the second time in one very long day that I heard the voice of denial. Why did it irk me more now, though?

“Maybe. But we still need that MRI done to confirm it. So get going.”

“I’ll just eat something before I go. I’m fasting since breakfast.” He took a china bowl, got the plain Greek yogurt from the fridge and some granola, and sat down at the kitchen table. With a place mat.

“Make it quick. They’re taking you in after-hours.”

I’m also fasting since breakfast. For you. And what’s this about a china bowl when your wife is collapsing?

  

Yad Perel hummed through the night. The walls vibrated with urgency as phone calls were placed, relationships oiled, and new ones forged. Shifra, my assistant and head of the genetics department, had come in to be with me and get a head start on the Speilman case.

I’d sent Perela’s MRI to Dr. Glasser, a world-renowned ophthalmologist. He was hopeful that the tumor was benign. Which was good news, but not great. There was definitely a growth there, and it had to be removed.

Removing an eye tumor often involved the eye, and Goldy had to be told.

It would require her to face reality with a thud. We’d always called her the Rebbetzin of Mars. Because if Mars would have a kehillah, she’d be its leader — teaching them all that life was about dreams and dances and drama, and Planet Earth was for nerds like her mother.

The MRI had drained everything out of her. I’d gone over earlier to drop off supper and pick up all Perela’s documents to get started on the insurance process. When I’d asked Yeruchem until when I could call with questions, he said that they needed their strength and were heading to bed.

And now I desperately needed Perela’s social security number. I searched through the documents again, no sign of it. We had to get started now. These phone calls took forever, and if things weren’t done fast, we would get stalled over New Years day.

Oh well, it would have to wait until tomorrow.

Rabbi Melber, our clinical trial genius, was on the case and scouring the planet for options, just in case. He’d also started researching alternative options for the Speilmans. I hoped we wouldn’t need any of it.

My phone buzzed. A buzzing phone after midnight was never a good sign in my line of business.

But it was Efraim. “Hi, Efraim, why aren’t you sleeping?”

“I wonder. I’m thinking about epes a pearl. But I’m also thinking about you. You need to get your sleep.”

“Efraim, I’ll sleep when Perela is okay. Until then I’ll be up.”

“Minky, I’m outside waiting for you,” he said quietly.

“Awww. What a good joke.”

“I mean it. Leave your car here, and come outside. You’ll pick it up tomorrow.” This was a first. Efraim knew that it takes a herd of elephants blocking my way to get me to stop working.

I grabbed my coat and told Shifra to join me. She was just as surprised, but she followed quickly.

After Efraim dropped her off, I turned to look at him. His pajamas were sticking out under his suit jacket and coat. I hoped Shifra hadn’t noticed.

“Minky, listen to me now.” He looked at me firmly, and I had the urge to giggle. “You’re going to stop going crazy. For all of our sakes, and for Perela’s sake. It’s in Hashem’s Hands. You’re a great shaliach, as a very smart woman I know always tells her patients. But staying up nights, fasting, and running yourself ragged is not the way. You have to be there for Goldy.”

“But Efraim—” For the first time in a day that felt like a month, I cried. Something frozen thawed as I let loose. Efraim looked stricken, but I forged on. “I d-do the same for all patients, and I shouldn’t do it for our granddaughter? I stay up all the time! And for Perela I shouldn’t? She’s named after my mother. My whole organization is for her, and I should sleep?”

“Nah,” he drawled. “Sleep? Who does such a silly thing as sleep? But seriously, you should definitely do all the hishtadlus. But you have to know, it’s not up to you. If you work harder or longer or whatever, it’s not going to change the outcome.”

It made me cry harder. “I know.” I wiped my eyes. “And that’s exactly the problem. I wish I could make it all go away. I can’t watch Goldy suffer.”

“Neither can I,” Efraim said, “but Hashem is her Father, too, and He cares for her even more than we do.”

  

Talk of sleep was nice and all. Theoretically. But wisps of dreams and social security numbers and names of doctors and tumors kept me in a very not sleep-ful state.

Yeruchem called from shul just as I drifted off at dawn to ask what the plans were because he had to schedule his day. Schedule, schmedule. I had told him to call early because hospitals start their days early, but not at dawn.

I told him about the biopsy, what it would entail, and that the baby couldn’t eat because she would need anesthesia.

He was quiet for a long time. Then he said, “Okay.” After another long moment, he added, “Thank you, I’ll tell Goldy and we’ll figure it out.”

“No, I’ll tell her,” I said quickly. I knew how to do it, gently, protect her.

“No,” he said firmly, “I’ll tell her.”

He was too late, Goldy was beeping. I hung up on him, and told her as only I could.

Her reaction was as predicted. “Not feed her?” she shouted. “She’ll be hungry, and she’ll cry.” It wasn’t the baby who was crying, it was Goldy.

“I know. I know. Don’t worry, I’ll come over, and maybe drive you to the hospital.”

I could hear her breathe easier, “Yes, that would be good.”

But an hour later, when I was all ready to leave, Goldy called again. “Yeruchem wants to take us,” she stammered. “He borrowed his brother’s car.”

“Tell him it’s time to get his own.”

Goldy was quiet.

“Goldy, it’s more than just going along for the ride. I have clearance, and I planned on going up with you to meet the team. A personal talk goes a long way. And a box of chocolates doesn’t hurt. Also, the insurance needs some smoothing over.” Because of your precious night’s sleep. To my own ears I sounded petulant. They should be begging me.

“Um, I don’t know.” Goldy sounded torn.

Yeruchem was talking in the background, “Let’s go, come, we’ll be late, and maybe if we get there early, they’ll do it earlier,” he said firmly. “Hang up the phone.” So that you can stick to your precious “schedule.”

“So should I pick you up?” I asked impatiently.

“We’ll call you when we get there to see if we need you,” Goldy said finally, clearly repeating Yeruchem’s words.

Something inside me snapped, “Do you even know where to go? And do you know that the Bikur Cholim room is locked because of COVID? And do you know that you need special permission for both parents to go in — which I got for you? And do you know I have containers of wraps and fruits and thermoses of coffee for the two of you? What do you mean you’re going on your own?”

Goldy had obviously covered the mouthpiece and was repeating everything I’d said to her husband.

Yeruchem took the phone. “Mommy, thank you so much for everything. We know how busy you are, and I think Goldy and I can do this on our own.”

“No problem,” I said coldly. “Go.”

“Efraim!” I exploded. “Can you tell me what’s wrong with those two? I’m willing to go with them and they want to go on their own! They’re twenty-two years old, for heaven’s sake! And even though Goldy grew up in this house, the only time she ever saw a hospital was when she was born!”

Efraim came flying down the steps, his shirt sleeve rolled up and his Rabbeinu Tam tefillin still being re-rolled. “You’re right! Young people make mistakes sometimes. Let them, it’s healthy.”

“Healthy? Healthy? My foot.” Or my eye.

Efraim said nothing.

“I’m going to the office,” I said abruptly. I took my coat and opened the door.

I was about to turn the knob when Efraim stopped me. “Uh, Minky, your car is at the office. Wait a couple of minutes and I’ll drive you over on the way to work.”

“All right,” I conceded. I don’t understand how I can help hundreds of patients, but my own daughter turns me into a basket case. “Efraim, you have a gourmet breakfast waiting for you. Wraps. Fruit. Coffee.” He didn’t raise his eyebrows. He must’ve heard my rant on the phone.

“Uh, maybe you should drop the food off at Goldy’s place. She’ll come home hungry and late. She’ll be exhausted,” he said, turning away. His face was pained and old. He was suffering too.

“Sure! I’m a cook, a chef, grandma, medical liaison on demand — practically a magician without feelings.” But really, Goldy would be hungry, and her world did turn over. “Okay, let’s go.”

  

It would take three to four days to get the results, and only two of them had passed. Thursday morning I felt like we were blindly flying a parachute, breathless with fear, with no clue where we’d land.

The biopsy had gone okay. They’d been treated like royalty. Every nurse and doctor had come to see the Waller baby, as many times as Goldy said that her name was Schonstein.

And in this interminably long and short period of time, we had to prepare for every eventuality.

Or to put it more accurately, I had to. Yeruchem was fine waiting. We’ll cross the water when we get to the bridge. He couldn’t even get his clichés right.

And yesterday, only a day after the biopsy, he called to tell me that his chavrusa’s cousin worked for Cholei Amcha and maybe they could help. “Do you know Dr. Chen Hoo? That’s the name my friend recommended.”

Of course I did. A good doctor, but not a great one. And he had the most awful bedside manner. I told Yeruchem as much.

“Maybe for a second opinion?” he asked. “He practices in the same hospital as Dr. Glasser.”

“Yeruchem, fine. Go, if you don’t trust your old shvigger. I sent the MRI to three doctors, and you want a second opinion? We’re researching every option available on the planet. You think I’ve been sleeping the past two days? I’m in contact with the biggest centers in the US. We’re working on something really great in Texas.”

All he said was, “I hear.” But he didn’t really.

“My chavrusa could help us get an appointment quickly.”

“Go. I told you to go. But then don’t come running back to me when you need me and expect me to help you then. Because I won’t.”

He stayed quiet, considering it.

  

Cirrhosis. Dr. Warfman was sure of it. The question was if the underlying cause was a metabolic or a bile duct issue.

The Speilmans were devastated. They had almost no support system, and the doctors weren’t too optimistic. It wouldn’t take long until the baby went into acute liver failure.

Rikki Speilman called the office every couple of minutes with some more questions. She was in the hospital alone and was not coping well.

“Shifra,” I called, “I think I’ll drive over to Columbia to be with Mrs. Speilman, what do you say? I should take advantage of the clearance I have.”

“Sure, I’ll take your calls,” she said. I gathered the files and made my way out. I passed Chaya and Nechama — they were working on insurance clearance for the newest cases. Tova was uploading images and sending them to CHOP so when the Frieds arrived with their son, everything would be there.

I stopped at Rabbi Melber’s desk.

“Please, I know you’re busy with Perela’s case. But try to find something for the Speilmans. Her liver tissue is really damaged. Any center in the US, we’ll find sponsors.”

He nodded without turning away from the computer. But I knew he heard me. With that done, I left the office.

  

As soon as I got through security at the hospital, I headed toward the elevators. Then I stopped. I wanted to scream, grab them by the coattails, anything. Instead, I stopped and stared. About twenty feet ahead of me, Yeruchem was pushing Perela’s stroller, and Goldy was hurrying after him holding the diaper bag.

I stopped breathing. As far as I knew, they didn’t have an appointment with Dr. Glasser until tomorrow. I’d actually spoken to Goldy this morning and updated her on all the research we were doing. She hadn’t said a word about an appointment. She only said how lucky she was that I was taking care of everything.

I waited for them to enter the elevators, and I took the next one to ophthalmology on the second floor. I arrived just in time to see the door closing behind them.

I walked up to the door just to confirm my suspicions. Dr. Chen Hoo. Then I turned around and headed to the Speilmans. I knew where I was needed.

  

It hurts to stay quiet.

I didn’t say anything. And I still didn’t say anything. I spoke nonchalantly about inviting them for Shabbos if they would be home. I didn’t say anything when speaking to a team in Wyoming who specialized in eye tumors. Then Yeruchem asked hesitantly how to print the MRI report from the portal, and I still stayed quiet. Print the report for Dr. Chen Hoo. Then Goldy called for the hundredth time to tell me how nervous she was to get the results. And I still stayed quiet.

All through that day, as I helped the Speilmans and promised to find them a hospital to treat their baby, as I navigated a frantic phone call from CHOP about a possible enzyme deficiency in the Fried boy, as I raced the clock to bring a patient from Eretz Yisrael to the US for treatment, I didn’t say anything.

Because if I would say anything, then it would be real. Now, I could still pretend I didn’t see them and comfortably continue doing, doing, doing.

I was tempted to go over to Goldy and shake her delicate shoulders. Where was she in all this, with her dreamy eyes and helplessness?

But when I thought of Efraim, and what he would say if I did, I stayed put. Not that I asked him, or anything, because that would mean saying.

  

The diagnosis was anticlimactic. As suspected, there was a large benign tumor behind Perela’s right eye. Dr. Glasser wanted to schedule surgery immediately, but he said clearly that the chances for keeping the eye were slim.

“They make perfect prosthetics nowadays. You won’t be able to tell,” he assured us.

But she wouldn’t see from that perfect prosthetic. And she was my granddaughter and she was named after my mother. She had to see.

The phone rang nonstop. My sons all wanted to hear the diagnosis and prognosis. All I told them, very firmly, was not to call Goldy, and to daven because we were doing everything humanly possible.

Moments before Shabbos, Rabbi Melber had two breakthroughs. Texas Children’s Hospital was willing to accept Perela in their trial for a radiation-based treatment targeting benign tumors, and Beaumont Children’s Hospital in Michigan was willing to treat the Speilman baby with stem cell therapy.

Both families had to be admitted into their respective hospitals by Tuesday because the holiday season started on Thursday. Plane tickets had to be booked, Bikur Cholim accommodations organized, and legalities finalized.

Only when the Shabbos siren actually blared did I disconnect from the insurance company with promises to complete all legalities before Monday.

  

“Mrs. Waller, I’m calling from the clinical trial team at Texas Children’s.”

“Yes. For my granddaughter.”

“I’m just confirming the cancellation.”

“Cancellation? Are you kidding me? My kids are all packed and ready to fly in a couple of hours!”

I myself had closed the suitcases only after filling them with an endless supply of frozen breaded cutlets and sides. I’d also stuffed them with reading material and nosh, and they were talking of canceling?

“I see. There must be some mistake then. I clearly see here that they pulled out today. Do you want to double-check?”

“Yes. No. Keep the slot for another hour,” I said, drained.

I called Goldy. No answer. Yeruchem, same thing.

My counters were still dirty from the smoothie I’d thrown together for the plane ride, and my ears still hurt from the endless hours on the phone to make it all happen.

It was like watching a huge hourglass, the sand methodically, consistently flowing through the timer, draining Perela’s eyesight.

Only much later, after I frantically drove to Goldy’s house and found it empty, after I drove to Yeruchem’s kollel and couldn’t find him, did I notice that my landline had a new voice mail from Goldy. Coward. She knew how often I answered my landline.

“Ma, I’m sorry, but Yeruchem — uh, we — don’t feel comfortable with the idea of a trial, so we backed out. His rosh yeshivah said if we don’t feel comfortable, we could stay local. She’s having surgery on Wednesday morning with Dr. Hoo.” There was some heavy breathing and then she continued, her voice breaking, “We’ll be in touch, Ma. Thanks for — everything.”

I replayed the message, the words nauseating me. Then I made Efraim listen. And then I couldn’t stay quiet any longer.

“Comfortable? Comfortable?! Who feels comfortable having a sick baby, Efraim? I’m a laughingstock, working so hard for them! After turning the world upside down and then right side up again, they cancel? What am I going to tell Dr. Glasser? Rabbi Melber? The team in Texas? Where’s their hakaras hatov?”

I was crying. He looked at me sadly. “I know. It’s so hard.”

“Efraim, they call me from the North Pole all the way to the South Pole for help, and Yeruchem and Goldy can do it on their own? Because he doesn’t feel ‘comfortable with trials’? Should I just sit and watch them blind their daughter, because Yeruchem thinks it’s a game of showing his shvigger that he can do it on his own? This has got nothing to do with Texas or a trial. He just wants to prove that he won’t be pushed around!”

  

Just when you think the day can’t get any worse, it does.

I could barely hear Mrs. Speilman through her sobs. I glanced at my watch. She was supposed to be in the air now on the way to Michigan to make a 7:30 a.m. appointment. My heart sank.

“We’re on the plane for three hours. It’s not moving! There’s a huge snowstorm in Michigan and they’re making us get off the plane!” She was sobbing so hysterically. I could hear her husband trying to calm her.

My usual drive left me. Everything just drained out of me and left me limp on the couch.

“Rikki, listen to me. We did all we could. I’ll try to see what I can do, but Hashem is in charge of the weather.” And of every move we make.

She stopped crying. I continued, “I’m just a shaliach. Whatever He wants will happen. His power isn’t stronger in Michigan.”

I hung up after promising to do whatever we could.

I heard Efraim puttering in the kitchen. He returned holding a tray of tea and cake for me. And was that schnapps and herring for him?

“L’chayim, Minky,” he said simply.

  

I held Perela, kissed the tip of her adorable nose, and gently caressed her fingers. She was still very sleepy, and she didn’t squirm as one tear after another fell on her ugly hospital pajamas.

There was a confident knock on the door and Dr. Hoo walked in. “We got quite a party in here,” he said. “Three people in one room? How did they let you all up here?”

“My mother-in-law here knows how to do these things,” Yeruchem said.

“Nice to meet you,” he said courteously, nodding at me.

“Nice to meet you, too. And thank you for everything you did for my granddaughter,” I swallowed.

Dr. Hoo walked over to Perela’s bed.

I looked at Goldy and Yeruchem, standing side by side. “I’ll be waiting outside,” I said.

I stood up, drinking in the nachas, and quietly closed the door behind me. 

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 854)

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