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Turning Tides: The Quiet Captain

As told to Leah Gebber

Tatty was 54 when a lightning bolt of pain struck his chest, radiated out to his shoulder and arm, and snatched his life away. I was 26 and furious.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

He never could say no, I thought, stunned. I wondered if he’d even tried. Surely, if his will had been strong enough, he could have clawed his way back from his journey to The Next World. I never said this to my family, though I think they could tell from the tension in my jaw, from the fact that I was unable to cry, not during the levayah, not during the shivah.

My anger wasn’t baseless. Just three years before, a cancerous growth had been discovered in my intestines; surgery had removed it, baruch Hashem, but I felt like a large part of my recovery was due to my attitude. I put my head in a place where recovery was the only option; I refused to entertain any other possibility.

Not that Tatty died because he gave up, chas v’shalom. But Tatty was … Tatty. Kind. Diffident. Gentle. Flexible. Did that mean he was weak willed? Was that a question I should have been asking? Probably not, but it had always been hard for me — driven, determined, persistent — not to get frustrated when I saw Tatty’s watery way of living and being.

A few days after the shivah, Chaim Wagschal, one of the senior members of Tatty’s business, called my mother. “I don’t believe he had a succession plan,” he said. My mother didn’t even know what that was. “It’s a plan detailing what will happen with the business,” he explained patiently. Poor old Mr. Wagschal didn’t get further. He stayed on the phone for half an hour, calming down my distraught mother, who tends to get over-emotional at the best of times.

She hung up and called me in a panic. “What’s going to be with the business?”

I had thought about it, of course I had, but I hadn’t gotten past hazy ideas of selling it to Mr. Wagschal, or perhaps bringing in a managing director. Or maybe selling the business. “I’ll call Mr. Wagschal,” I reassured my mother.

She was still sniffing and hiccuping when I got off the phone. I made an appointment to see Mr. Wagschal the very next afternoon. My husband should really have come with me, but he’s an administrator in a yeshivah and taking time off is unthinkable. So, with my daughter in school and my ten-month-old coming along for the ride, I set off for my father’s office.


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