| Serial |

Trust Fund: Chapter 9

“Well, that’s just it. The expectations. Of being a Frankel. It’s a lot. We’ve decided. Libby and I—”


Deena needed a new school. Like, yesterday.

Akiva rubbed his face with both hands. For a while, he’d been feeling strangely numb, like he was floating above his life, unaffected by the choices he was making.

But now, he’d been feeling a sense of rising emotions ever since he’d stormed out of the boardroom yesterday. He refused to label the feelings as “panic,” but it was getting very close.

His phone buzzed: Baruch. He pressed ignore for the third time.

He didn’t have the mental capacity for Baruch right now.

That made him sad; his relationship with Baruch used to be effortless. Was anything effortless these days?

Libby was upset, Deena was out of school, and in about an hour, his parents weren’t going to be happy either.

He’d told them before Shabbos that he needed to speak to them on Motzaei Shabbos. So there had been no Shabbos naps in the Frankel Junior house. Not that he was sleeping much these days, anyway.

He was pretty sure that his parents had no idea what was coming. He’d lain awake last night, running through a montage of moments together with them, trying to think if he’d ever given them a clue.

The answer, he’d realized, was a firm “no,” mainly because he hadn’t even known himself.

Now, as he waited for Libby in the car, he felt sick.

Was he blindsiding them?

They were good people, his parents. They’d raised him to know right from wrong, to always lend a helping hand. He knew how much they loved him, and how much they’d poured into his success over the years: the tutors, one-on-one with private rebbeim, the gifts and time and efforts....

But there had also been other things, things that painfully quashed who he was and who he was able to be, and right now, it was time to stop holding himself back, to stop living in ways he didn’t want to live, and start doing things he’d never done before.

A knock on the passenger window and then Libby slid inside.

“Mali was crying, but I think she’s back asleep.”

“Too much Shabbos party, hmmm?” the man in the car smiled and bantered, while Akiva Frankel floated above the scene, hoping with all his heart that he wasn’t about to watch himself crash and burn.

Ma had set out a spread. Well, Camille had set out a spread.

Akiva looked at the salmon and bagels, the cheese platters and iced juices, and nausea rose inside him.

“Excuse me,” he muttered, and he made it to the bathroom before he vomited.

It was the way he reacted to nerves; Ma had spent many resources trying to cure him of the habit, and for the most part, he had it under control. But tonight was different.

Libby was sitting across from Ma and Daddy, showing them photos of the kids on her phone. She shot him a look; he nodded his head imperceptibly. He was fine. Everything was fine.

Ma spooned salmon onto Daddy’s plate and moved the platter of cinnamon buns away from him. She was fanatic about his weight, convinced that slim meant healthy.

Oh, no — was he about to give his parents heart attacks?

He sat down heavily; Libby passed him a glass of cold water. He drank greedily and looked up to find all eyes on him.

Was he supposed to just start? He opened his mouth to ask how Shabbos was.

“Ma, Daddy, we have something to tell you.”

Oh. Okay. Apparently, the Akiva Frankel who had taken control of his body was a man who cut to the chase.

Ma looked intrigued, perfectly filled in eyebrows raised ever so slightly.

“Libby and I… uh, Libby and I…” he faltered.

“We’ve spoken to Rav Richter,” Libby said.

He sent her a silent message of thanks. Yes, start with the rav. His parents loved the rav.

“Rav Richter?”

“Yes! Yes. Rav Richter. We’ve been to see hm. Several times, actually. And he’s guiding us.”

Daddy’s voice is steel. “Guiding you in what, exactly?”

“In a new way of life?” His voice rose pathetically at the end, turning the statement into a question.

Daddy looked confused. “Way of life? You know our way in life. You’re a Frankel.” He chuckled heartily; no one joined in.

And just like that, Akiva landed back into his body with a thump.

“Well, that’s just it. The expectations. Of being a Frankel. It’s a lot. We’ve decided. Libby and I—”

He turned to her. She looked steadily back, no trace of doubt in sight. That gave him the courage to continue.

“We’ve decided to go out. On our own. No Frankel account. No family cards. No help from you and Ma. but also, no expectations, aside from regular family things.” His voice hardened.

“No running over for midnight parlor meetings or because of visiting dignitaries. We’ll choose the schools we want to send our children to, the clothing we want to dress them in, the haircuts they receive.”

Libby cleared her throat.

He nodded, acknowledging her reminder.

“And Chol Hamoed trips, Yom Tov meals, Shabbos plans — our kids are getting older and we think we need to spend more time with just our nuclear family. We’ll be doing a lot more alone, although of course we’d love to join you from time to time.

“You’re wonderful grandparents and we’d never want your relationship with our children to change. We  appreciate you, and love you, and this has nothing to do with our relationship at its core.”

He fell silent, spent.

His parents were looking at him as though they’d never seen him before.

And Ma was crying. Oh, great, Daddy became totally unreasonable when Ma cried.

Daddy found his voice. “Well. Well, well, well. Been feeling stifled by the family, have you, Akiva? Golden handcuffs and all that? Oh, I get it. Went through the same exact thing myself.”

Akiva’s head snapped up sharply, momentarily shocked out of his one-track-minded mission. His father had tried to break away from the family? He found that hard to believe.

“You know what Zeidy told me?” Daddy continued. “He told me to grow up and realize that I had obligations to the family that raised me.”

He looked at Akiva. “I won’t tell you that. You want to leave, you want to walk away from all this, that’s fine. Take a break. See how the other half lives.

“Dabble in real estate or stocks, or whatever else it is the kids are doing this day. And when you’re ready to come back, we’ll just put this all behind us, no judgments.”

Akiva shook his head. “This isn’t a phase, Dad. I don’t need to blow off steam or take a road trip. This is our lives, our children’s lives. I’m not playing around.”

Libby made a strangled sound, but when he turned to her, her face was as impassive as it had been the entire time he’d been speaking.

“You think we’ve stifled you?” Ma sniffed, wiping a stray tear. “We tried to be good parents, to see you as individuals.”

Oh, this is what was going to break him. The guilt.

“Ma, no, you are amazing. Both of you. This is something that’s been building for a while. I need to do this. We need to. It’s not just a whim or some spur of the moment thing. This is thought out.” His voice softened. “This is real.”

He suddenly hated the sound of his own voice.

Daddy sat back. “Remember after yeshivah gedolah, when you decided to open a vaping store? It was the newest thing, and you and Baruch were so excited. What was it called?”

“Smoke and Mirrors,” Akiva mumbled.

Daddy laughed. “That’s right. Well, how long was it before you both came asking for jobs? Six months?”

It had been four, but Akiva wasn’t going to remind him about that.

“This isn’t that, Daddy. And I’m not 20 years old.”

Daddy’s face hardened. “No, you’re not. You’re a grown man who should know better. But listen”—he raised both hands—“live and learn is my mantra. You’ll figure out that this is ridiculous, and we’ll be right here when you come back.”

He pulled the box of Lucite bentshers closer and began a spirited “Eliyahu Hanavi.”

Akiva looked at Libby.

That was it. There was no turning back now.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 977)

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