Recap: Libby doesn’t understand why her boss is letting those rude men be in the aviation school. She thinks there is something not right about them. Avi’s sister and their niece are coming for Friday night dinner. Libby and Avi have an important meeting scheduled.
When Avi came back from shul, we all sat around our small dining room table for Kiddush. Avi’s parents and his sister and her daughter made our living room feel smaller. Avi offered a blessing to all our esteemed guests. One day, I prayed, we would have a little girl and little children for Avi to bless.
Then Danielle and I headed into the kitchen. I handed Danielle the plate of chicken to carry into the dining room. “You cook so much for one meal.”
“It’s to honor Shabbos,” I said.
She shrugged. “Lauren, come help your aunt,” she called to her daughter.
Lauren skipped into the kitchen. “Thanks, honey,” I said. I handed her a plate of broccoli.
Avi’s father was seated next to Avi and leaning towards his son. Watching them, I was struck by how much Avi resembled his father, except that Avi wore the black velvet yarmulke and his father’s hair had a few streaks of gray. They were both lanky and muscular. They both had sandy-colored hair that slightly curled at the temples, and blue eyes. My father-in-law’s voice interrupted my reverie. “I loved every minute of medical school. It was fascinating and I couldn’t get enough.”
Avi glanced towards me.
“So, tell me what you’re learning now and when do you start your residency. Have you thought of what specialty you want to go into?” Dad asked.
Avi cleared his throat. I noticed something, a flicker in his eyes. I hadn’t noticed it before, but suddenly I wondered. Why did Avi look upset?
“I had a model lesson yesterday,” I said.
Mom turned towards me. “How did it go? Did you get the job?”
“No. It was a disaster, but I did learn from it.”
“Well, I hope you’ll get some job.” Mom’s immaculately manicured nails drummed against the table. She wore her blonde hair piled high and lavender eye shadow. She always looked so put together like a model, in nicely tailored suits or dresses. Sitting near her I always felt underdressed, under-made-up and generally shlumpy. I patted down my shoulder-length blonde sheitel and glanced in the mirror on my way into the kitchen. I’d dabbed some blue eyeshadow on, which accented my large, dark eyes and blended nicely with my new aqua-colored frames. I pushed my glasses back against my nose. The freckles on my nose stood out. I’d forgotten to apply foundation. I was wearing a navy pleated skirt and a purple button-down blouse. Skinny would be the best way to describe how I looked in this outfit, though I wished I looked svelte or sophisticated. I’d have to shop for some more sophisticated looking outfits – one day.
Luckily, though, in terms of my own ability to teach, I have more confidence in myself than my in-laws have in me, but that’s okay. I know they mean well.
“Well, the principal where I did the lesson was really great. She sat down with me and gave me pointers that I know will help me with my next model lesson.”
Dad interrupted. “Avi, I want to know what specialty you’re thinking of. I can help you find the right residency—”
Avi cleared his throat. “Cardiology.”
I looked at him. He’d never told me he wanted to specialize in that.
“That’s a good, solid specialty. Cardiologists are always needed.”
“Well, the heart is important.” Avi opened a sefer and began reading a d’var Torah about the parshah.
“Rachel really wanted to marry Yaakov, but she was willing to give up her own happiness so her sister Leah would not be embarrassed. She knew that her father Lavan would switch brides, and so she taught Leah the signs she and Yaakov had prepared so Leah would not be embarrassed.”
Lauren bubbled. “Wasn’t Rachel sad not to marry Yaakov?”
Avi nodded. “She was, but she knew how painful it would be to be embarrassed in public, and she didn’t want that to happen to her sister whom she loved.”
Danielle’s mouth formed a tight line. “Lauren’s class is going on a trip,” she said. “Tell them where you are going.”
“We’re going to the planetarium,” Lauren said.
Avi’s father was leaning towards him. As I passed by to clear the salad bowl, I heard him telling Avi more about cardiology.
Mom followed me into the kitchen. “This is a lovely meal,” she said. “I’m so relieved that Avi has chosen a specialty. You can see how happy Dad is. Once he finishes the residency and all, you two will be able to support yourselves better.”
I spooned rice into a bowl and handed it to my mother-in-law. I appreciated that they were helping to support us, but I didn’t like how once in a while one of them would casually refer to the situation.
I didn’t want to be dependent on them. If only I had a good paying teaching job. G-d willing, I will get one, I told myself.
After everyone left, Avi helped me put away the food and stack the dishes. I was thankful for his height when he easily reached all the high cabinets.
He had a faraway look in his eye. “Avi, I never knew you wanted to be a cardiologist.”
I almost dropped the plate I was holding.
“Libby, there’s something I want to tell you. It’s hard for me. I’ve been putting it off.”
“Hard to talk to me. Can’t you tell me everything?”
“Let’s go in the living room and sit down.”
This sounded serious. My stomach lurched.
Was everything okay? Was someone ill? Had I done something to make him upset?
Avi was such an easygoing, good-natured person. He never asked for much.
We sat on the couch and then he shocked me.
“I realized something a while ago, but I didn’t know what to do. I kept hoping I would be able to keep going but Libby, I can’t.”
Tears sprang to his eyes.
Was this about us? I felt my neck muscles tighten. “Was he upset at me?”
“I don’t want to be a doctor. I don’t want to finish medical school.”
I had the feeling of being in a car that makes a sudden sharp U-turn that left my stomach behind. I heard the words and tried to process. “Why did you tell your father––”
Avi wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. I reached over to the tissue box and handed him a tissue.
“That’s just it. He’s always expected, always wanted me to follow his path and be a doctor. I wanted to please him. I worked hard and scored high on the MCATS and got into a good medical school but it’s just not me. It’s so not me.”
“Okay,” I said. “That’s okay with me.” I remembered something Aliza told me when I was in shidduchim. “You marry the person, not the job.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I want to become a rabbi and teach.”
I pictured the look on Avi’s parents’ faces and his sister Danielle if they heard him say that.
“You would be an amazing teacher. Hey, maybe we can teach together in the same school.”
“I have to get s’michah first. It will take a while. Are you sure you are okay with this shift? It’s a way different lifestyle. A doctor makes a lot more money. You’d have more material comforts…” His voice trailed off. “I’m sorry.”
I was trying to process this whole huge change, but I knew right now I had to reassure my husband.
“Avi, I didn’t marry your profession. I married you.”
“How can I ever tell my dad? It’ll break his heart.”
“Well.” I thought of the way his parents would react and I had to agree. His father had looked so animated and happy when Avi told him he was planning to be a cardiologist.
“I think you should wait. Speak to the Rosh Yeshivah.”
“You’re the best wife, Libby.”
“Yes, I am,” I said.
I hope I can be, I mused.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Please Be Polite (Menucha Publishers 2022), A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishing 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers 2020), Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in Binah Magazine and Binyan Magazine, and “Moon Song” in Binyan (2021-2022).