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For Granted: Chapter 44

Shuki whipped a paper out of his pocket and unfolded it to reveal a large cartoon hand with big eyes and a goofy grin


“I’ve got it!”

Dini and the kids looked up from the dinner table as Shuki burst through the door.

“Got what?” Binny asked.

But it was Dini that Shuki was grinning at. “The campaign concept. I was working on it today, and I think I’ve got a winner.” He threw his coat onto the couch (Dini tried hard not to wince; the coat hooks, Shuki, they’re not just there for decoration), strode over to the dining room table, and sat down.

“Chesed Tzirel: Your helping hand in Israel. No, listen,” he insisted as Dini opened her mouth to respond. “It sounds cliché, but it’s not.”

Dini’s mouth curled. “How’d you know what I was going to say?”

“I’m a mind reader.”

“Really, Tatty?” Five-year-old Yaeli’s eyes widened.

Shuki reached out to tousle her hair. “Yeah, really. For instance, I can tell you what Chaviva’s thinking right now.” Chaviva looked up suspiciously; Shuki winked at her. “She’s thinking, ‘Will someone please tell Tatty that he is so not funny?’”

As they all laughed, Shuki turned back to Dini. “So here’s the message we want to push. We’re an organization helping Americans just like you who are living in Eretz Yisrael. It could be your own young kollel couple who needs our help one day. And if and when they find themselves dealing with a medical crisis all alone in a foreign culture, you don’t have to worry. Because they have…”

He whipped a paper out of his pocket and unfolded it to reveal a large cartoon hand with big eyes and a goofy grin. “Handy the helping hand!” he sang.

Dini’s mouth opened and closed several times before she could find her words. And then it was only, “Ummm….”

Shuki’s smile matched the Hand’s. “We’ll be the next Fiveish, how awesome is that?” He stood up and pranced around with the paper. “Handy Dandy, everyone! Handy is out to have some fun!”

Dini closed her eyes. He couldn’t be for real. He couldn’t be….

Then Shuki chuckled. “Oh my goodness, the look on your face!” He threw the paper onto the table. “Kidding, of course. Although we did have lots of fun with Handy in the office.”

Dini shook her head as relief washed over her. “Sounds like you guys got a lot of work done today.”

“Well, yeah, between that and Schneider bringing in bobas for the entire office. We had tapioca balls flying all over the place, it was rocking.”

Tapioca balls flying all over the place. She didn’t even want to picture it. “Sounds very mature.”

Shuki grinned. “Oh, quite,” he said with a British accent. He sat back down. “But seriously. I think the helping hand idea can work great in song.”


“Of course. A big tear-jerky music video, performed by, like, Baruch Levine, all about the chesed of Klal Yisrael. I’m picturing hands reaching out to each other, forming one big chain of people. Y’know, chesed and achdus all wrapped in one. How can you miss? If we get it right, it’ll put Chesed Tzirel on the map in a big way.”

Dini eyed him skeptically. “Uh, this sounds like a major production, with major costs. Weren’t you the one making fun of me for spending too much money on our volunteer events?”

“Making fun is a harsh term.” Shuki folded his arms behind his head as, across from him, Binny picked up the hand drawing and began to sing, “Handy Dandy, everyone!”

“But okay, if you want lower budget, I’ve thought of that option as well. We can skip the celebrity singer and go with a no-name. Or with me.” He grinned again and began to croon, “Oh, giving a helping hand, makes your heart expand. We need you to understand, all it takes is a couple hundred thousand graaaaand!”

Dini couldn’t help it; she began to giggle. “You’re hired.” It had been a while since Shuki had been so high-spirited, she realized; it was nice seeing him back to himself.

Shuki bowed. His expression turning serious again, he said, “As it happens, Mandel from my office does videos. I spoke to him today and he gave me some ideas and a range of pricing levels. We can do it. We just need to figure out how and how much.”

Dini nodded. She felt a rising bubble of excitement inside. A music video! To — how had Shuki put it? — put Chesed Tzirel on the map in a big way! Yes, this was exactly what they needed! A slow smile spread across her face.

“Genius as usual,” she said. “I love it.” She stood up to grab a pen and notepad from the coffee table and began to make a list. “We need to get a songwriter ASAP. And meet with your video guy. Then we need to decide on an online fundraising platform. And gather our ambassadors. And—”

Shuki was watching her. “Shouldn’t you get the go-ahead from Ayala before, well, going ahead?”

Dini frowned. She hadn’t told Shuki about Ayala’s demand through Bracha to raise money for therapy, but it still stung every time she thought about it.

“I’m sure Ayala will be okay with it,” she said briefly.

But she sighed. Right now, Ayala knew nothing. She couldn’t really move forward before telling Ayala something about their plans.

She clearly doesn’t see the need to call me or keep me in the loop.

Dini’s jaw tightened. A brief email would do.


Ayala woke up in the morning feeling just as tired as when she’d gone to sleep. Not surprising, considering she hadn’t slept a full night in about a week. Last night it was her father. He’d twisted his back getting out of bed to use the bathroom. Ta wasn’t a complainer, so when she’d heard him calling her name, she’d known it was serious.

Now that left her with two patients to care for.  And she was supposed to fly back next week.

Ayala yawned as she made herself a cup of coffee. She’d rummaged the closets for a heating pad last night and had been surprised to find her parents didn’t own one, considering the back pain they’d each suffered on and off for years. She’d have to go out to buy one this morning.

She frowned. She was sure she’d bought them a heating pad when she’d visited two years ago. Not that it was a big deal to get a new one, but still.

Ma shuffled into the kitchen.

“Good morning,” Ayala said. “Can I make you a cup of coffee? How’s Ta feeling?”

Her mother looked just as tired as Ayala felt. “He was up moaning most of the night. I couldn’t sleep at all.”

Ayala’s heart sank. Maybe she should get him stronger painkillers as well.

“Ma, don’t you have a heating pad? I looked for it last night, to help relieve Ta’s pain, but I couldn’t find it.”

Her mother scrunched her eyes in thought — one more indication, Ayala realized, that Ma was slowing down. She’d always had a clear mental inventory of every item in the house and where it was located.

At last, Ma’s brow cleared. “Oh, that’s right. I believe I lent it to Shaina. She was experiencing back pain during her pregnancy.”

Ayala’s eyes narrowed. Zev and Shaina’s baby was already one. How could they not have returned it?

She rubbed her eyes. Lighten up, Ayala. We’re talking about a heating pad, not a Tesla. They probably just forgot about it, or assumed Ma and Ta would buy a new one.

She poured milk in the two coffees, stirred, and carried them both to the table.

She didn’t expect any better from Shaina. Her sister-in-law was not exactly the paragon of thoughtfulness. But Zev? How could he not realize that it wouldn’t occur to their parents to go to the store and pick up a new pad until they had a need for it. And had to suffer all night in the meantime.

Ayala frowned at herself. It’s a stupid twenty-dollar heating pad.

“You know what I’d love right now? A slice of cheesecake.” Ma smiled like a young child. “We wouldn’t happen to have any in the fridge, would we?”

“No, Ma, you know we don’t.”        “Too bad.” Her mother shot Ayala a hopeful look. “You wouldn’t happen to be going out this morning, would you? Because the bakery—”

Ayala gritted her teeth. This was their tenth time having this conversation. “Ma, you know you can’t have cheesecake. The doctor put you on a strict diet to take care of your heart. You don’t want to have another heart attack, do you?”

Ma’s face fell. “Well, no, of course not.” She took a sip of coffee, pouting.

Ayala sighed. “Listen, I am going out this morning. And I—” She was interrupted by the phone’s ring.

Ma picked it up and her face brightened. “Zev! Good morning, how are you?”

Ayala stood up and opened the fridge. There was a melon and two nectarines. Enough to cut a small fruit salad for breakfast. She’d have to stop off at the supermarket as well.

Even though all she wanted to do was crawl back into bed.

She cut the fruit, her mother’s conversation drifting in the background. “So sweet of you to ask, Zev. No, I don’t need anything. We’re doing just fine.”

Ayala glowered, before reminding herself that usually Zev was the one in charge of caring for their parents’ needs, while she was far away in Israel.

“Wait, actually, there is something.”

Ayala turned just in time to see the furtive look thrown in her direction and hear her mother’s lowered voice: “If you could pick up a cheesecake for me, I’d so appreciate it. I have such a hankering right now.” A pause, as Ayala held her breath, even as she knew what Zev’s answer would be.

“Oh, thank you! You’re so sweet. Yes, after work is fine. Whenever you’re able to drop it off. No, I wouldn’t dream of inconveniencing Shaina, I know she’s so busy with the kids.”

Ayala let out her breath with a hiss. What was Zev thinking? He knew about Ma’s food restrictions; they’d both been there when the doctor had discussed it.

She stalked out of the room. Now she’d have to be the bad guy once again, calling Zev behind Ma’s back and telling him not to buy it. She hated being the bad guy. But sometimes it seemed like she was the only adult around here.

To distract herself from her annoyance, Ayala walked into the living room and opened her laptop. Chesed Tzirel emails were being diverted to Bracha and Dini, but she still liked to look through them as well. Her eyes skimmed down her inbox, landing on an email from Dini. Fundraising stuff, it said. She clicked it open.

Hi, Ayala,

Hope you’re well and your mother’s doing better. Is she still in the hospital?

Ayala frowned. Had she not spoken to Dini since Ma had come home? Maybe not; the days tended to blur into one another.

Anyway, I just wanted to update you about where the fundraising is holding. Considering all of our new expenses, I’m moving full force ahead with fundraising efforts. Just wanted to let you know.


Ayala squinted. Was she missing something? Hadn’t Dini been fundraising all along? Or was this a subtle way of reminding Ayala that she deserved appreciation for all her hard work? Maybe it was a reaction to Bracha’s therapy request. It hadn’t been fair of her, Ayala realized, to spring that on Dini without asking first.

She hit reply.

Super. Thanks for all your hard work.

I trust you to do an amazing job as always.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 896)

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