| Family First Serial |

For Granted: Chapter 49

Bracha rubbed a hand over her eyes. “Pretending that everything is normal is the only thing that keeps me sane”

Dini watched Bracha’s back as she retreated to the bathroom to wash her face. She crumpled her empty cup of water. What should she say when Bracha came out? Assure her that she’s here to listen? Offer to leave?

Her laptop screen was still open to the campaign logos. Mindlessly, she scrolled up and down the page. Maybe Bracha would prefer she quietly slip out now? No, that would make it even more uncomfortable the next time they met.

Dini opened her email. A new one from Ayala. Subject: About the meeting…. Dini frowned. Those ellipses didn’t look too good. But she couldn’t focus on that now.

Behind her, Bracha cleared her throat. Dini glanced up.

“You okay?” she asked hesitantly.

Bracha raised an eyebrow. “You mean you didn’t notice that I just bawled my eyes out on your shoulder? Phew, and here I was feeling really awkward—”

Dini laughed in relief. At least she sounded like herself now.

“Less stupid question: Want to talk about it?”

Bracha sat down next to Dini and leaned her head back on the cushion. She stared into space for a few moments. Dini slowly rotated her bracelets around her wrist.

“Yeah. I think I do.”

Dini looked up, but Bracha was still staring at the ceiling. She cleared her throat. “A few months ago, my husband started feeling certain symptoms. He was tired all the time… going to the bathroom a lot… didn’t have much of an appetite. Kinda swollen and itchy skin. I pushed him to go to the doctor. I was rooting for mono.” Her mouth curled sardonically. “The diagnosis was stage 4 kidney disease.”

Dini dug her fingernails into her palms. “Oh no,” she said softly.

Bracha glanced swiftly at the bedroom door where her husband was davening. “The doctor said it may take a few months or a few years, but we should start preparing ourselves now for end-stage renal failure.” She swallowed. “Y’know, dialysis and a transplant. We hope. Dovid’s siblings are planning to get tested.”

Dini felt like giving her another hug, but somehow, she didn’t think Bracha would appreciate it. “And you’ve been dealing with this while still taking care of your kids and running your home and everything.”

Bracha rubbed a hand over her eyes. “Pretending that everything is normal is the only thing that keeps me sane.”

Dini shot her a shrewd look. “Is that why you’ve been keeping this a secret?”

Bracha blinked. “Yeah.” She gave a small smile. “I hate pity. I couldn’t stomach the idea of having the whole neighborhood tell me how sorry they are and how they’re having Tehillim gatherings for him. Maybe I’m being silly.” She lifted her eyes to Dini.

Dini shrugged. Maybe she was, but it wasn’t for her to judge. “I get it, I also hate pity.” She leaned forward. “Does Ayala know?”

Bracha shook her head. “I haven’t even told my own family. I will, of course, eventually. But I just haven’t been ready to face their…  horror, I guess. It will make my own horror that much more real.”

Dini thought about how she would feel if, chalilah, it was Shuki. Would she be able to handle the million phone calls from her mother, her father, her siblings? The advice, the “you poor thing” attitude, the insistence that they fly back to the US because how can you possibly trust Israeli medical care?

Yet, she thought, she’d still prefer their overbearing sympathy to handling such a challenge without their support.

Dini frowned. Fine, everyone had different relationships with their families. But why not Ayala? Why had Bracha chosen to confide in her, a relative stranger, but not in her best friend who also happened to be an expert in the Israeli medical system?

“Just curious,” she said slowly, “why haven’t you told Ayala? Don’t you think she could help?”

Bracha shifted her position on the couch. “I love Ayala, but… it’s complicated. I — um — wasn’t interested in shifting the balance of our friendship. In making her into the giver, the hero.” She looked intently at Dini. “You know what I mean.”

It was a statement, not a question, and Dini nodded. She knew exactly what Bracha meant.

“Yes,” she said, with a small smile. She couldn’t help the bubble of pride that arose when she realized that Bracha had felt comfortable sharing with her what she’d shared with no one else in the world. “But these past few months must have been so lonely for you. Isn’t it hard carrying the burden alone?”

Bracha’s mouth twisted. “A quote pulled straight out of the Chesed Tzirel brochure.”

Dini blushed. And then something clicked. “You’re saying not everyone needs support in illness,” she said slowly. “For some people, privacy is more important.”

Bracha lifted a shoulder. “I assume at some point I’ll need the meals and childcare and all the stuff Chesed Tzirel offers. But not now. Now I need normal. Does that make sense?” As Dini nodded, Bracha’s lips curled. “You don’t have to change your whole campaign messaging. Admit it, that’s what you were worried about.”

Dini made a face at her. Suddenly, to her horror, she felt a giggle rising in her throat. Bracha raised her eyebrows.

Dini covered her mouth as another giggle escaped. “I’m sorry,” she said, reddening. “It’s just… I couldn’t help thinking about the irony… I mean, davka now, you start working for an organization whose entire purpose is to provide support for people during times of illness, while you—” She stopped, glancing at Bracha, worried that she’d offended her.

But Bracha’s eyes were dancing. “You know, I hadn’t thought about it, but yeah, when you put it that way, it is kind of amusing.” Her lips twitched and suddenly she was laughing as well, and before they knew it, they were both doubled over, tears streaming down their faces.

“This — is — so — not — funny,” Dini gasped. “I’m sorry.”

Bracha shook her head as she wiped her eyes with her sleeve. “So not funny,” she agreed. “But exactly what I needed.”


Dini’s head was still swimming from her conversation with Bracha when Shuki came home, and it took him several tries until she realized he was talking to her.

She blinked. “Mmm? Sorry, what did you say?”

Shuki was sprawled out on the couch. “Nothing interesting. The knife the Arab was holding wasn’t all that big. It only took me and Schneider to bring him down — and Schneider had a broken arm.”

Dini stared. “Wait. Are you joking?”

“Not at all. He broke it last week. Biking accident.”

Dini gave a tentative laugh. “Seriously, what were you saying before?”

“You don’t believe I could take on a terrorist with three hands?”

Dini rolled her eyes. “Are you going to tell me or not?”

Shuki folded his arms behind his head. “I asked you how your friend’s meeting went with Schiller.”

Dini clapped a hand over her mouth. “I totally forgot. I think she sent me an email about it.”

Shuki lifted his head. “Are you okay?”

“Sure.” Dini didn’t meet his eye; she had no right to share Bracha’s secret. Instead, she opened her email.

“Here it is,” she murmured, quickly reading. Her face paled. “Oh no.”

Shuki was watching her. “Would’ve been better to stick with the terrorist story?”

Dini closed her eyes. “It was a total disaster. Listen.” She read aloud.

So I’ll start with the good news. He gave us a donation of ten thousand dollars.

Shuki winced. “Ouch.”

And he said he’ll think about being a matching donor. But it seemed to me like he was just being polite. Frankly, he didn’t sound so enthusiastic about Chesed Tzirel. It was probably my fault. I know I came off stiff. I was too nervous. I guess next time we’ll leave the fundraising to the experts, and I’ll stick to what I do best, huh?

Dini took a breath. “Well, there goes that one.” Her lips tightened. She felt like throwing something. She felt like shaking Ayala and asking her how she could have messed up such an easy opportunity.

She felt Shuki’s gaze. “I know it’s not her fault,” she muttered. “She tried her best. Hashem didn’t want us to get this matching donor.”

Shuki’s lips twitched. “Bitachon and hafrashas challah with Rebbetzin Dini Blumenfeld.”

“Ha, ha.” Dini’s fist clenched. She began to pace the room. “I should never have let her do this. It was so convenient, it made so much sense, but — you were right. She wasn’t the person for the job.”

She braced herself for some variation of I told you so. Shuki had expressed deep skepticism when Dini had exclaimed how perfect it was that Ayala was already on the spot to meet with Schiller in person.

“Are you sure she’s up to it?” he’d asked. “You need someone smooth-talking, persuasive, and passionate. You know her better than I, but I just don’t picture her that type.”

She’d had to admit that she also didn’t, but that hadn’t stopped her from defending her decision and insisting that Ayala would do a great job. In the end, Shuki had shrugged and said, “This is your baby. You know how much is at stake. If you’re confident, then go for it.”

Now she was kicking herself for being so stubborn. Yes, she had known what was at stake. Had Ayala? Had she realized how imperative it was to their campaign’s success to get this meeting right?

I guess next time we’ll leave the fundraising to the experts, and I’ll stick to what I do best, huh?

Dini’s eyes narrowed at the lighthearted tone. Did Ayala see this as Dini’s problem? Did she think that she could let others be responsible for icky things like asking people for money for her organization, while she stuck to — Bracha’s image rose in her mind — to the heroic deeds of chesed?

Shuki’s voice broke into her thoughts. “What’s your next step?”

Dini sighed. “I guess we should try one of those other names my father gave me. I really didn’t want to fly in, but it seems I have no choice.”

Shuki was shaking his head.

Exasperated, she let out a breath, a sheitel strand flying into her eye. “What don’t you agree with this time?” she muttered. “And why do you always have to be proven right?”

At that, Shuki let out a loud laugh. “I disagree with giving up on Schiller. He probably was just being polite, but as long as he told Ayala that he’ll think about it, we still have an opening.”

Dini felt her heart lift. “You think so?”

“Of course.” He sat up. “And the second thing I disagree with is you flying in to meet with him and those other friends of your father.”

Dini raised her eyebrows. “But I thought we said it needs to be in person.”

“It does. But I think I should be the one to go.”

Dini stared at him. “You — you’d be willing to do that?”

Shuki waved a hand. “As it happens, I have other business to conduct there as well,” he said airily, grinning at her surprise.

“You mean, for your father?”

“That, too, I guess.” He leaned his head back on the couch pillow. “Lichtman from my office just finished developing a website for some new business in Monsey that sells deli boards. Now they want to market it — and, believe it or not, he suggested me.”

His tone was casual, but Dini knew him too well.

“Today, they got back to me and said they want to set up a meeting. They meant virtually, but I was thinking it would really wow them if I flew in to meet in person.”

Dini nodded slowly; she understood. He wanted — needed — this to work. Badly.

But she couldn’t help but wonder how his father would feel.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 901)

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