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For Granted: Chapter 47

Ayala frowned. She didn’t appreciate the condescending note in his voice


Ayala checked her laptop screen one more time. Yes, the flight was still available, and it would only cost her a few dollars more, even with the change fee. It made sense to extend her visit at such a sensitive juncture.

Would Naftali see it that way?

Feeling suddenly weary, she lay down on her bed as she dialed her husband’s cell phone. She hated bothering him in the middle of seder, but according to the site there were only three tickets left at this price.

“Hi, Ayala. Everything okay?”

“Yeah. Sorry to disturb you, but I have a time-sensitive question.” She took a breath. “About changing my ticket.”

The silence on the other end didn’t bode well. She quickly continued. “You know that potential donor Dini told me about?” She figured she’d go with the argument that he’d be least likely to dispute. “So he’s only able to meet with me next week. And according to Dini, this is too good an opportunity to pass up. It can be a major source of funds for Chesed Tzirel.”

“I hear,” Naftali said.

Ayala plunged on, going for lighthearted. “If you ask me, Dini’s happy with the delay. She said she needs at least a week to train me how to speak to mega-wealthy people so I don’t make a fool of myself.”

“If she’s so worried, why doesn’t she fly in instead?”

Ayala blinked at the bite in her mild-mannered husband’s voice. Was he having that hard a time managing at home? It hadn’t sounded that way from their phone calls. True, he’d sent that SOS email when Chumi had come home with a note from her teacher asking her to bring in a “ma’aroch” to school tomorrow. But she’d called him right away. “It’s a rolling pin, Naftali. You don’t need me, you need Google Translate.” And they’d both laughed.

She’d called to say Shema with the kids every night and Zoomed with them before Shabbos. And each time, Naftali had assured her that things were fine, they were all fine, no need to worry at all. Ayala had had no reason not to believe him; Naftali was steady and capable.

“This is a skill I should learn, don’t you think? I am the head of the organization after all.”

“You’re telling me that these US trips are going to become more frequent?”

Ayala paused at that. “Nooo. At least, that’s not the plan for the near future. But since I’m here anyway and it’s just a matter of extending my trip for another few days, it seems silly not to. Especially because my parents—” She stopped, but too late.

“So this is really about your parents?” She heard Naftali exhale loudly. “Ayala, your mother’s out of the hospital and returned to her regular life. I know how much you want to help them, but at what point do you say it’s time to let them take care of themselves?”

Ayala frowned. She didn’t appreciate the condescending note in his voice; besides, where did he get off judging her when he wasn’t here to witness her parents’ condition?

“If you saw them right now, you wouldn’t be speaking this way,” she said quietly. “I’m not here on vacation, you know. Believe me, I want to come home, but I also don’t want to leave my parents in a state where they aren’t able to function alone and have no one to help.”


Ayala lowered her voice. Her brother was downstairs right now, visiting with his kids. “Zev does what he can, but you know he can be a bit blind to the reality.”

She sat up. She’d planned on broaching the topic today of their parents moving to Israel. Now it occurred to her that she hadn’t discussed the idea at all with Naftali.

He sighed. “If you need to stay another week, then stay. We’ll manage. It’s just… I miss you.”

Ayala’s shoulders relaxed. “Me, too,” she said softly. She took a breath. “I had another question to ask you.”

“Is this also urgent? Because my chavrusa is waiting.”

Ayala hesitated. “No, it can wait for later.”


Zev’s two oldest children, seven-year-old Nomi and five-year-old Mutti, were playing Uno with Bubby and Zeidy. Ayala smiled at the scene; all four players were clearly enjoying themselves. Shaina had chosen to stay home with the two little ones, which was probably a good idea all around. The way her sister-in-law subtly spoke to and about Ma and Ta as if they were little children always made Ayala see red.

Zev was sitting on the couch reading a magazine. Ayala sat down next to him.

“I’ve extended my ticket,” she said.

Her brother raised an eyebrow. “Why?”

“I have an important meeting with a Chesed Tzirel donor, and he was only able to meet next week.”

Zev smiled. “Look how choshuv my sister’s become,” he teased. “In with all the gvirim.”

Ayala swatted her hand at him. “I’m terrified about this meeting, actually. But we need the money and my partner, Dini, set this up, so what can I do?”

She twisted her fingers in her lap as she continued casually, “And staying an extra week will give us more time to settle things with Ma and Ta.”

Zev lifted his head. “Settle things? What do you mean?”

“I mean figure out where to go from here.” In answer to his bemused expression, she explained, “They need help, Zev. I don’t think they can continue managing here alone, with you an hour away and me an ocean away.”

Zev’s brow furrowed. “You’re saying we should bring back the aide? I thought you said she’s too expensive.”

“She is. I mean, I can’t say for sure. I have a general picture, but I don’t know all the details of their finances. Do you?”

Zev shook his head, eyes wide. Watching him, Ayala suddenly felt a pang of compassion. He was barely 30, far too young to be dealing with elderly parents and all the financial and medical issues that come along with that stage of life.

For that matter, she supposed, so was she. But she’d been old since she was a kid.

Ayala sighed. “It’s not just a question of money. I don’t think it’s good for them to have an aide take care of all the household tasks. It’s important for them to retain independent functioning. No, what they need is to live closer to someone who can help them when they need the extra hand.”

Zev looked at her warily. “Are you saying they should move closer to me?” He coughed. “’Cause I’m not sure how Shaina—”

Ayala cut in brightly. “No. I’m saying they should move closer to you.”

Zev stared at her for a moment. Then he laughed. “Ma and Ta make aliyah? You’re joking.”

“Why? Think about it. It’s a great idea.”

Zev shook his head. “They’ll never go for it. At their age?”

Stung, Ayala said, “Many, many people move to Israel at an even older age. You should see how many Anglo retirees there are in Ramat Beit Shemesh. They would love it there.”

Zev looked at her doubtfully. “They don’t speak Hebrew.”

“They won’t need to. I’m telling you, it would be a really good move for them. They’d make friends, there’s an active local senior club that Ma would love. And they’d be close to grandchildren, which, of course, is huge. My Tziri and Layale would be thrilled to help them.” She rubbed her eye. Thrilled? Or would they feel obligated? She thought of her Tziri, dutiful Tziri, who, on the other night’s phone call, had insisted she hadn’t minded missing her friend’s birthday party to babysit her younger siblings. Ayala had cringed; the resemblance to her own younger self had been too stark.

Okay, so she wouldn’t allow her daughters to become her parents’ caretakers; that would be her own responsibility. Still, the more she spoke, the more convinced she was in her own mind that this was the perfect solution. She leaned forward. “Zev, trust me. This is exactly what they need.”

She saw the flicker of uncertainty in her brother’s eye. He was used to trusting her opinion.

“I don’t know, Ayala…. They’ve been living in this community all their lives. I’m not sure it would be good for them.” He shifted on the couch, picked up the magazine, put it down again. He glanced over at their parents.

“Why don’t you ask them?” he said at last. “I’ll go along with whatever you guys decide.”


“Gimme the brutal feedback,” Dini said as she and Sarale kneaded challah dough. No more rugelach, she’d decided, when Sarale had asked for another baking/mentoring session. By now it had become weekly, and Shuki was having way too much fun with his threats to publicize her hafrashas challah in all the local seminaries.

Sarale looked up at her as Dini added, “Like, completely honest. How did the girls react to the fundraising campaign?”

“Oh, that.” Sarale giggled. “They were pumped. Most of them, at least.” She cocked her head. “I mean, okay, Chaya was like, ‘I knew it, they were just out to get money from us.’ But she’s always snarky, what can you expect?” Sarale grinned and Dini couldn’t help grin back.

“And there were some who were like, ‘Ugh, no way, I’m terrible at asking for money.’ But, y’know, they’ll do it if everyone else does because they want to be in on the action. Also,” she reflected, wiping a smudge of flour off her sleeve, “because they think Chesed Tzirel’s awesome.”

Dini smiled. That’s what she’d been hoping to hear. “Bracha’s speech was great, no?”

Was she fishing too much for compliments? But really, when it came to compliments, Sarale was such an easy touch. Amazing for her ego.

“OMG, yes!” she enthused. “The way she spoke about the fear of becoming an almanah! I was practically crying. No, I was crying. Seriously. I just kept thinking, what if it were Yisroel? What if he suddenly became sick?” Her voice trembled. “And then I thought about how upset I’d gotten just the night before because we’d discussed going to a hotel for a Shabbos to celebrate our half-year anniversary, and it turned out his idea of a hotel was some youth hostel on a farm….” She made a face. “And all I could think of was, why am I getting annoyed about these little things when women like Bracha have husbands who are dying!”

Dini stared at her. “Bracha? She’s our medical liaison. She helps families dealing with medical issues.”

Sarale squinted back. “Yeah? I was so sure she was talking about herself.” She went back to kneading.

Dini stared down at her own dough. She, too, had had a funny sensation that Bracha had spoken from personal experience. Could it be? Was Bracha actually dealing with a medical crisis of her own? But why hadn’t she said anything?

Sarale’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “Is she a Schwartzbaum?”

Dini blinked. “Huh?”

“Bracha. Is that her maiden name?”

“No clue. I don’t really know her well. Ayala brought her in to the organization.”

Does Ayala know what’s going on with her? But Ayala’s in the US. And if Bracha really is dealing with an illness, she can surely use a friend to support her. Would it be overstepping to reach out?

“Oh. Because she looked familiar. I thought maybe she was my older sister’s friend from high school. Of course, I was, like, seven years old, so it’s hard to remember.”

Dini nodded absently. She liked Bracha. And, hey, hadn’t she developed a track record recently of being a good listener and counselor? Yes, she decided, she would try to discover what was going on.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 899)

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