| Family First Serial |

For Granted: Chapter 41

“I see what Ta doesn’t, that there are a lot of very unhappy staff members right now, and he’s going to have a serious problem on his hands if something doesn’t get done soon.”


Dini paced the living room, muttering to herself.

“Names. I need names. Ma? Ta?” She made a face. “Adele Samson?” She paused, considering, then shook her head. “Too pushy, she’s already giving a lot.” She resumed her pacing, feeling the anxiety in her stomach rise to her throat.

She’d promised Bracha she would get her salary at the beginning of the month. And that was tomorrow.

She sighed. She could, of course, simply draw the money from her father’s bank account, the way she did for all her CT volunteer events. Ta never asked her for an accounting. And it was only an interim measure, until she started raising serious funds.

Until she figured out how to start raising serious funds.

Dini raked a hand through her sheitel. To do that, she needed names of serious potential donors.  Should be a piece of cake, given her connections. But who did she have the guts to ask for a list of friends to contact? Her mother would absolutely shudder at the idea.

Her in-laws?

Dini stopped. It was even more awkward than asking her parents, but, on the other hand, Shuki’s mother was feeling quite guilty at the moment. Guilty enough to help?

She rocked back and forth on her feet. Ever since returning from Maariv, Shuki had been holed up in their home office. Doing what, she didn’t know; it was a rare sight to see him working from home.  But surely she could interrupt him for just a few minutes to ask what he thought of the idea?

The door to the office was slightly ajar, and Shuki’s voice wafted out. He must be on the phone.  Gently easing the door open, Dini stepped inside.

Shuki was on a Zoom meeting with what looked like about 20 people, and he was leaning forward, speaking in a measured, confident voice.

“I’m with you, Dave. Calling an employee out in front of other people is not okay. That’s never been the way we work at Bloom Senior Care. You all know how much we value treating everyone with respect.”

Curious, Dini walked closer, careful to stay out of the computer camera’s line of vision.

“Dave, I’m writing down the incident you just told me. Before we wrap up, Olivia, you had something you wanted to share?”

As a woman on the screen began to talk, in an increasingly huffy voice, about how Eric insisted on reviewing every single invoice she wrote up before it was sent out — “I’ve never felt such a lack of trust, never! As if I haven’t been working here for the past twenty-five years!” — Dini watched, fascinated, as Shuki nodded, made empathetic interjections, and scribbled visibly in his notepad, sending Olivia and her fellow staff members the clear message that they were being heard.

She’d never seen this side of Shuki before. She’d always pictured him as just a lackluster employee, lounging around in his office, doing some work here and there when the mood struck.  But this was a different Shuki entirely. Here he was encouraging, in tune, in command — a leader.

“Olivia, I’ve been feeling exactly the same way, and from what we’ve heard in this meeting, a lot of others have, too. I feel like this meeting has been really productive in allowing us all to get a full picture of what’s been going on. We’ve been working together for many years now, and we’re a fantastic team. Now that we’ve aired our grievances, the next step is to problem-solve.  I’m going to try to come up with some recommendations, and I’d love to get yours as well. Let’s meet same time next week to discuss. Sound good?”

From across the little boxes on the screen, Dini saw nods, thumbs-up, and waves. Shuki signed off and stared into space for several moments before slowly standing up. He started as he caught sight of Dini.

“When did you come in?”

Dini blushed. “I wasn’t eavesdropping,” she said quickly, even though that was exactly what she’d been doing. “I — I had a question to ask you.”

Shuki looked at her expectantly, but somehow, Dini didn’t feel like she could jump into Chesed Tzirel fundraising yet.

She cleared her throat. “You were fabulous at leading this meeting. It was your idea?”

Shuki’s cheeks turned a faint pink, though he shrugged self-deprecatingly. “Everyone’s been complaining to me about the new manager because, y’know, I have the boss’s ear. Even if my father doesn’t want to hear it.” His eyebrows furrowed. “I see what Ta doesn’t, that there are a lot of very unhappy staff members right now, and he’s going to have a serious problem on his hands if something doesn’t get done soon.”

“So you decided to do something about it?”

Shuki scratched the back of his neck. “What can I do, really? I can’t fire Eric, and Ta doesn’t take me seriously to begin with. But I realized that what I could do was give the staff a forum to vent, to feel they’re being heard by someone who’s connected to the higher ups.”

Dini nodded, feeling pride bubbling up inside. Yup, Shuki had hit on their exact psychological pain point and how to fill it. Not surprising; that was his superpower.

“Does your father know about this?”

Shuki grimaced. “Of course not.”

“He should! You have to tell him! He should realize what a priceless help you are!”

Shuki rolled his eyes.  “ ‘Priceless help.’  Nice one, Din, but that’s not the way he sees it.”

“Well, Mr. Marketer, maybe you should change that perception, huh?” She rested her head against the wall and crossed her arms.

Eyes glittering in amusement, Shuki imitated her posture. “Maybe I should hire you to be my publicist.”

“No problem. You take care of my Chesed Tzirel fundraising, and I’ll sing your praises to your parents.”

Shuki eyed her. “Fundraising? Is that what you wanted to ask me about?”

Dini nodded, as the weight of her own troubles settled on her once again. She rubbed her forehead. “Do you know, I never understood before what it means to be anxious about paying the bills?”

“Oooh, the rich girl learns how the other ninety percent live.”

Dini swatted in his direction. “Big shot. You’re not one to talk.”

“Didn’t say I was. In fact, I’m the only one of the twenty-one people on that Zoom call who wasn’t worried that my job’s on the line.” He glanced toward the black computer screen, then turned back to her. “So what help did you need from me?”

She tugged at her sheitel. This didn’t feel like the right moment to ask about requesting special favors from his parents.

“Forget it,” she mumbled.  “I think I’ll just try to figure it out myself.”


Ayala was in the middle of a conference with the cardiologist when Zev walked in. She waved him over.

“Dr. Druck, this is my brother.”

Was that a flash of annoyance in Zev’s glance toward her? But he responded calmly, “We’ve already met, Ayala. During Ma’s first hospital stay.”

Ayala winced. “Sorry, my mistake,” she said quickly. “I hadn’t realized you treated her then, too.  I live overseas and just arrived this morning.” Show Zev that you’re acknowledging his role as chief parent carer, she admonished herself.

The doctor smiled politely and turned to Zev. “I was just telling your sister that your mother’s test results have been encouraging so far. The EKG and chest X-rays were normal, and her blood test didn’t show any markers of heart damage, other than slightly elevated TSH levels.”

Zev was nodding along, though Ayala was fairly certain that the terms were meaningless to him.

“Glad to hear,” he said. “So, does this mean she’ll be discharged soon?”

Ayala held out a restraining hand. “They still need to figure out what was causing her shortness of breath and heart racing.”

“Correct.” The doctor glanced toward Ma, who was lying in her bed, taking a nap. “Was she feeling unusually anxious or upset recently? Was she acting herself?”

“No,” Ayala said decisively, at the same time that Zev said, “Yeah, pretty much.”

Zev raised an eyebrow at her, as the doctor asked, “In what way was she not acting normally?”

Ayala coughed. “Zev, I know that you’re the one who’s with her more, but maybe that’s why it’s easier for me to pick up on these things…” She turned toward the doctor. “On the phone, she certainly sounded more anxious than usual ever since she came home from the hospital. Really, ever since my father’s fall a few months ago, she hasn’t been herself. And when I arrived at their house early this morning, I was shocked by the level of disorder and uncleanliness. It’s very unlike my mother.”

Dr. Druck nodded. “So you’re describing abnormal levels of stress and anxiety.”

Ayala’s brow creased. “Yes… but, doctor, I don’t think we should jump to psychological causes before we’ve ruled out every other possibility. Do you think it makes sense for her to do a Holter monitor test?”

The doctor smiled. “I see you know your stuff. However, in my opinion, the most likely culprit is her medications. She’s been on beta-blockers since her heart attack, and that can affect heart rate and rhythm.”

As she and Dr. Druck continued the conversation, Ayala noticed Zev shifting his feet in increasing impatience. After a few moments, he wandered over to the chair next to Ma’s bed, picked up the magazine lying on it, sat down, and began to read.

After Dr. Druck left, Ayala turned to her brother. “Did you not want to be part of that conversation?”

Zev shrugged. “You were doing a fine job. I had nothing to contribute.”

Ayala bit her lip. Was that an accusation?  “Of course you have something to contribute! You’re the one who’s been taking care of Ma all this time! You should have as much of a say as I do!”

Zev scratched behind his ear. “No, I’m serious. You know much more about all this medical stuff than I do. You’re the one who should be making the decisions.”

She cast a skeptical eye at him, not sure if he was being sincere. Then, Zev looked up at her — and it was a look she knew well, a look that brought her back 20 years. Suddenly, he wasn’t an adult, but her baby brother, gazing up at her with the utter confidence that, even if their parents were older and unwell, he could count on his big sister to care for him.  Her heart swelled with fondness — for Zev, for Ma and Ta. Her family.

“If that’s how you really feel,” she said, after a pause, “then I’m happy to fill that role.”

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 893)

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