Lonely House of Truth: Part I
As Shalva set the breakfast dishes on the table, the spoons clattered out of her hand, breaking the morning quiet.
“Don’t worry about breakfast, sweetheart,” her mother implored. “You and Danny need to get going.”
“I know, Mom. I know you are going to take good care of the kids. Thanks for getting up early to see me off,” Shalva swallowed back the tears, as she reached out to hug her mother.
“Shalva, be’ezrat Hashem, things will go well, and you will be back home tonight. I’ll be davening.”
“I know you will, Mom,” Shalva squeezed her mother tighter.
“Ready to go, Shalva?” Danny asked, as he entered the room.
“No, but let’s get going anyway.”
Danny and Shalva stepped through the door, and the click of the lock echoed in the early morning silence.
The news, or as Shalva called it, “bad news”, rambled in the background like white noise. Neither Shalva nor Danny could focus on anything but getting to the hospital. Shalva knew that the small hernia repair should go well, but that empty feeling generated from transforming from regular person on the street to feeble person in a thin hospital gown was already closing in on her.
Danny began talking about someone at work who had tried to go behind the boss’s back and contact a client. Shalva tried to distract herself by weaving her way into the conversation.
The first rays of light streaked through the sky as they pulled into the hospital.
Danny took Shalva’s bag and his sefarim, and they walked to the outpatient day surgery entrance. Danny read something on his phone as they walked. Shalva glanced at Danny, and then with a deep breath, she stood taller and walked more determinedly toward the entrance. She asked the concierge for directions and was already checking in before Danny had even made it to the threshold. After receiving her wristband, she was escorted to the back. She called to Danny—still engrossed in his phone—to join her.
The attendant chatted with Shalva, clearly born to be a comic, but intent on bringing his art to the job of assisting the pre-op patients. “Looking forward to an exciting day? If you need a nap, we have naptime scheduled in an hour or two. And look at these complimentary gifts we have!” He handed her a sealed pack of hospital gear and pointed to the bathroom where she could change. “Come back to chair 5 when you are ready, and the nurse will lead your adventure from here.”
“Thanks. Have a nice day,” Shalva smiled her thanks.
Shalva emerged in her hospital blue and whites and headed to chair 5 where Danny was sitting, looking at his phone. She struck a silly model pose in the hospital gown, but Danny didn't even look up. The nurse approached as Shalva sat down, and she began to take Shalva’s vitals and ask her the relevant questions. With a smile and a wave, the nurse said that she would be back in a few minutes with an I.V. and “a nice place to lie down.” Shalva laughed, but Danny was still focused on his phone, undisturbed.
Feeling uneasy and concerned about the upcoming surgery, Shalva reached for the siddur in her bag and started to daven. “Aromimcha Hashem ki dilitani—I thank you Hashem, because You have lifted me up. Zichru niflotav—remember His wonders. Hodu L’Shem ki tov—Thanks to Hashem because He is good. Lo tichla rachamecha mimeni—don’t withhold compassion from me. Hashem Tzivakot ashrei adam bateach bach—Hashem of hosts, happy is the one who trusts in You.”
The buzz of her phone broke into her tefillos. Home was calling. She picked up, and with barely a “hello?” out of her mouth, Adina began speaking, “Mommy, I hope they are taking good care of you.”
“Yes, Adina, they are.”
“That’s good! I can’t find the chumash test you signed last night. Savta said I shouldn’t bother you, but I really need it for today.”
“I think you may have left it on the piano when you stopped to listen to Aryeh playing.”
“Let me look…..yay! Thanks so much, Mommy! I love you!!”
“Make it a great day, Adina! I love you, too. Bye.”
Shalva looked at Danny to give him a parent’s smile—the kind shared between parents demonstrating their collective joy from their children, but Danny was still scrolling. The nurse was back, and Shalva hopped on the gurney and snuggled under the warmed blanket. It felt nice to be taken care of, even if in this simple way. “This is perfect,” Shalva exclaimed.
“We have great service here, honey. We’ll get your I.V. started with some complimentary breakfast, and the anesthesiologist should be with you in a few minutes.”
While she lay there, tucked in, she debated getting Danny’s attention. Was it worth it trying to speak to him? She just watched him read. He had put his phone down and was learning from a sefer. He didn’t notice that she was watching.
Could they really be 14 years into this marriage? She had wanted to come by herself via cab this morning, but Danny wouldn’t hear of it. He loved her and wanted to take care of her, but he had no idea how to do so. Who wants to sit here before surgery talking to someone who isn’t paying any attention? She might as well have been alone! She watched Danny turn the page. The anesthesiologist walked in, asked his series of questions—suspiciously similar to the previous inquisitor’s—deemed Shalva ready to go and called over the orderly to take her to surgery.
As they began to push Shalva into surgery, she watched Danny again. Would he notice that she was leaving? Or when she was gone? In desperation, she called to him, “Danny?”
“What? Oh!” He jumped to his feet. “Bye. Everything will be ok. I’ll be davening.”
“Ok,” she said quietly, and swallowed back her tears.
Shalva watched the ceiling tiles roll past her—in each one, a scene of her marriage played out. She didn’t see the love she wanted. The kindness she had dreamed of. The home she had davened for. She pushed on toward the harsh operating room lights. The anesthesiologist greeted her and injected the meds into her I.V. line. In those next few seconds, she continued Shacharis—“Vaani b’chasdecha vatachti—and I trust in Your loving kindness,” and then her conscious faded out.
To be continued…