S

arah: Itzik had assured me it was safe now to walk to the Kosel, and that there would be plenty of people the whole way there. But Jaffa Gate was dark and deserted.

“Where are all the people you promised me?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s people for you. Never there when you need them.”

He went up to the Border Police guards stationed at the gate and asked if anything had happened.

“Nothing special,” they said. “It’s just a quiet night.”

So we walked into the Old City, silent and thoughtful. I kept my hand on my bag, thinking of the long e-mail from Bernadine that I’d printed out a few hours ago and stowed inside.

Dear Sara’le, I wanted to let you know that Grandpa had his way in the end. I guess he was uncomfortable with the idea of the surgery all along; it just didn’t work for him in his world of magic and spirits. I’m sure he believed to his last day that he did the right thing.

But I think he was happy. I hope he was happy. A few weeks later, carrot-headed Jim, the schoolteacher’s assistant, phoned us and told us that Grandpa had died. We caught the next van to Angoram, rented a motor canoe, and made it to Yango Bay in time for the funeral. Joe thought it was a shame that Grandpa didn’t have his eyesight for those last few weeks. But I think he did the right thing. He died true to himself. It wouldn’t have been worthwhile to force him into surgery.

Two days after the funeral, I saw Frank sitting by the fire with his little boy, Elson. Elson was explaining his arithmetic homework to Frank with little stones. They were both laughing. The smoke from the campfire rose up all around them. It sort of framed them inside.

I don’t know what they were laughing about, or what they were learning. But that didn’t really matter. What mattered was that they were doing it together, by the light of the tribal fire. I met a girl named Yana here in Wewak. She was my clinical supervisor while the surgeons were here. She is a very strong person, with lots of energy and lots of dreams, and she intends to fulfill them! Her mother is Melanesian and her father is Papuan. He is the head of the Agricultural Bureau in Wewak. Yana’s looking for a husband. I think I have a good idea for her. Joe thinks so, too.

In half a year’s time, Joe would go back once again to Yango Bay, to receive his mother’s blessing and his brothers’ slaps on the back. Eldy would start planning the wedding feast. “What do we have to give the bride’s family?” she would ask. “Animals? Money? What price did you agree on with her father, Joe?”

And Joe would laugh and explain that there wasn’t any price. Yana wasn’t getting married for piks or money, only for him. But… there was something he planned on giving her. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 727)