| Family First Serial |

For Granted: Chapter 43

Ayala wavered for a moment as her brain vacillated between two a.m.! and Just do it and make her happy


Ayala sat up in bed with a start, squinting in the dark. Had Ma just called her name?

She yawned, listening. Yes, Ma was calling from her bedroom. Ayala quickly stood up; it was for good reason that she’d been sleeping in her robe ever since her mother had come home from the hospital.

“Ma, what happened?” she whispered, glancing at her sleeping father. How was it that Ta slept through her mother’s calls, while she heard it from the next room? “Is everything okay?”

Ma blinked as the light from the hallway beamed into the room. Wide-eyed, she clutched Ayala’s arm. “My medications. I didn’t take them tonight.”

Ayala gritted her teeth. “You did. Remember? You took both the Lopressor and the Lipitor after dinner.”

Ma squinted. “I did? Are you sure?” She didn’t wait for an answer, just shook her head insistently. “No, I didn’t. I know I didn’t.”

Ayala sighed. “Would you like me to show you?” She went down to the kitchen, grabbed her mother’s pill organizer from the counter, and brought it back up.

“See?” she said, opening the Tuesday compartment. “The box is empty. You took everything.”

Ma looked confused for a moment, then her face cleared. “Oh. I suppose I did. Thanks, Ayala. I was so sure I’d forgotten….”

“You must have dreamed it,” Ayala said. She yawned. “No problem. Let’s go back to sleep, okay?”

“Okay. But while you’re up, can you bring me some hot cocoa?”

Ayala raised her eyebrows. “It’s two in the morning, Ma.”

“I know, but I have such a craving.” The way she smiled reminded Ayala of her four-year-old, Rafi. “Besides, I couldn’t possibly fall back asleep right now, with my heart still in a flutter. The cocoa will calm me down.”

Ayala wavered for a moment as her brain vacillated between two a.m.! and Just do it and make her happy.

She sighed. Hot cocoa was supposed to be good for the heart, right? “Coming right up,” she said, trying to inject cheer into her middle-of-the-night voice.

After delivering the hot cocoa, Ayala got back into bed, but found it hard to fall asleep. Her thoughts were racing. In the three days since Ma had been discharged, it was clear she needed help. While baruch Hashem, she’d gotten a clean medical bill of health, her mother was much more tired and moved more slowly than Ayala remembered, and Ayala had been doing all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning. Really, it was better that way; with Ayala in charge of the food, she could make sure her mother was sticking to her heart-healthy diet. Not to mention ensure that she took her medications.

The question was, what would her parents do when she left?

She’d already been in the U.S. for almost a week. She’d booked a two-week trip, which was pushing it, she knew. The updates from home were okay; between Naftali and the twins, they were managing to hold down the fort, but there was a limit to how much she could ask of them. Especially now that the emergency was over.

But she was coming to realize that nothing was over. In fact, it was just beginning. As her parents aged, their needs would only grow. Who would be there to care for them? Zev? She rubbed her eyes and sighed. Zev meant well, but he didn’t really have the temperament for it. And she certainly couldn’t count on Shaina, her sister-in-law. She was the resentful type; ask her to drive Ma to a doctor’s appointment and you’d hear about it for the next month.

Ayala rubbed her forehead and sat up. If she wasn’t falling asleep anyway, she may as well call Israel. She hadn’t heard from Dini or Bracha in the past two days, which might or might not be a good sign.

She picked up her phone and hesitated for a moment. Bracha or Dini? She thought about the current open cases that she’d abruptly dumped in Bracha’s lap. Some of them were new, like Markowitz. Feeling a pang of guilt, she dialed Bracha.

“Ayala? Are you back?”

“Er, no. Just keeping ridiculous hours.” She laughed lightly. “How are things going?”

“Great. Leebie’s walking all over the place now. I just bought her first pair of shoes. Pink and silver. Is that what you wanted to know in the middle of the night?”

Ayala smiled at the amusement in her friend’s voice. “Such exciting news, thanks for sharing.” She paused. “And Chesed Tzirel?”

“Everything’s going fine, ma’am. No need to worry. Things haven’t been falling apart without you. Actually, it’s been pretty quiet.”

“Yeah?” Ayala was surprised. “Didn’t Schwartz have a meeting scheduled with the social worker about the bone marrow transplant? And Keller needed a follow-up at Bituach Leumi.”

“Keller’s going tomorrow. And Schwartz’s appointment was pushed off until next week. Hopefully you’ll be back by then.” Bracha was silent for a moment. “Actually, while we’re on the phone, there’s something I wanted to ask you. I think Markowitz can use some extra support.”

“Oh? Like what? Meals? Have you spoken to Dini?”

“They’re getting meals. But she — the wife, I mean — sounds pretty depressed. I think their whole family’s having a hard time processing her husband’s disease. She said her son’s been acting out in school.”

“Are they getting therapy?”

“She’s been speaking to the hospital social worker. I told her how to request therapy for her children via the kupat cholim, but when she tried, they told her there’s a huge waiting list. Meanwhile, the whole family sounds like they’re falling apart.” Bracha hesitated. “Can we offer to fund private therapy for her kids? Is that something we cover?”

Ayala bit her lip. It was definitely something she’d love to cover. “I wish we could. But we don’t have that kind of budget.”

“Oh,” Bracha said. “I just wondered — since Dini seems to have this unlimited source of funds for her volunteer clique’s social activities, I thought maybe she could provide money for this as well. I just felt so bad for Perry Markowitz, she seems so down.”

Ayala remembered Bracha expressing similar compassion for Leora Schwartz; this deep emotional identification with their clients was a facet of her friend that surprised her.

She sighed. Bracha would have to learn with experience that it was impossible to be everything for everyone. Ayala’s mouth twisted ironically at the thought. Had she herself learned that?

Ayala frowned. At the same time, Bracha did have a point. Just one less CT volunteer event could fund a whole lot of therapy sessions.

“How about you ask Dini about that?” she said. “Tell her I said I’d like to find room in our budget for funding therapy sessions.”

Dini bit the end of her pen as she looked down at her list. She’d spent the past hour writing up a summary of all the ideas she and Shuki had discussed last night for the fundraiser. Shuki had been more animated than she’d seen him in weeks, hopping around the room, churning out idea after creative idea.

She smiled to herself. She was itching to get started. She wanted to schedule another meeting with Temima to discuss strategy and messaging, to call up the graphic designer and copywriter to get started on campaign materials, to plan a huge, exciting campaign launch event for her ambassadors.

But first, she needed to get Ayala’s approval.

She glanced at her watch. It was another few hours until she could call America. Which gave her just enough time to carefully contrive how she was going to sell this to her friend.

She bit on her pen once more. So Ayala, remember how we said our goal is to make Chesed Tzirel a household name, so that any Anglo family in Israel who needs help will immediately know to turn to us?

She shook her head. Ayala was going to hate it.

Her phone rang, and Dini glanced down. Bracha. Over the past week, she and Bracha had become — well, she wouldn’t quite say friends, but certainly more comfortable with each other.

She picked up. “Hey, how’s it going?”

“Baruch Hashem. Been rather quiet on the medical front, actually, which I guess is a good thing. Unless word’s gotten out that Ayala’s in America, and no one wants to risk putting their life in my hands.”

Dini snorted. In the short time she’d gotten to know her, she’d actually been quite impressed by how capable Bracha was.

“Uh huh, I’m sure that’s it.”

“How are things on your front?” Bracha continued.

“Great.” Dini paused. Should she tell Bracha about the campaign? As one of the organization’s key employees, Bracha would certainly be expected to play an active role in fundraising, and it was best to make her feel invested in the campaign from the very beginning. On the other hand, it felt wrong telling her before Ayala.

“I’ve been mostly working on fundraising,” she said vaguely.

“Better you than me.” Bracha laughed. “I’d totally hate that job. But, while we’re on the topic, that’s actually the reason I’m calling. I have a message for you from Ayala.”

So Ayala was still using Bracha to communicate with Dini? Swallowing her surge of resentment, she said quietly, “Yes?”

“I just spoke with her. Yes, even though it’s the dead of night in New York, Ayala was awake thinking of Chesed Tzirel.” She laughed affectionately. Dini tried to laugh along, but inside she was burning. Oh, so when Ayala can’t sleep at night because she’s worried about how Chesed Tzirel is running without her, she calls Bracha?

“Anyway,” Bracha continued, “Ayala and I were talking, and we think it would be a nice idea for Chesed Tzirel to offer therapy as part of our medical assistance. That is,” she amended, “not actual therapy, but funding for therapy. You know, just like we help with meals and babysitting and stuff to keep up the family’s mental health, we can also help them with actual mental health.”

Dini clenched her hand. “Sounds super,” she said coldly.

“But of course, we need a budget for that. So Ayala asked me to, uh, tell you that when you’re working on fundraising, you should add this into the equation. Is that doable, do you think?”

Rage rose so swiftly in her throat she could barely speak. The chutzpah! What did Ayala think she was — an ATM? No need to make Dini a part of the decision-making, that’s what we have Bracha for, darling Bracha who joined the organization, like, yesterday, but clearly had Ayala’s trust and high regard much more than Dini did. Sure, Ayala and Bracha could sit in serious discussion about how to grow the organization, what new programs to add, and, don’t worry, we’ll just tell Dini to pull another $50,000 out of her hat to make it happen. No sweat for her; she’s rich, isn’t she?

She swallowed once, twice, before she mastered her voice enough to respond. “Yes, I think that should be doable. Let me go over the numbers and see.”

She refrained from screaming until after she’d hung up. Because it wasn’t Bracha’s fault, was it?

Her eyes narrowed. And to think she’d been waiting to get Ayala’s approval on every detail of her fundraising campaign before moving forward. As if — as if they were partners or something. Well, if Ayala wanted to treat her like a mere cash machine, then that’s what she’d be.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 895)

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