C

haim Reimer always felt strangely at ease in hospitals. There was a certain orderliness and method to the place — people walking purposefully, machines beeping, graphs registering progress.

But not under these circumstances.

The entire Levinsky family was there, crowded around their father’s bed, talking at once. It was, Chaim thought, the Levinskys being themselves. There were hugs and crying and drama, and a young, skinny doctor with red hair and a nervous manner trying valiantly to figure out who was in charge.

Rivky was doing food: opening bags, unwrapping sandwiches, and pouring drinks.

Gavriel, by virtue of being a dentist, was the self-appointed medical director. It was he and his mother who huddled with the emergency room doctor.

“Are they pulling Tatty’s tooth?” Chaim joked to Shaya as Gavriel took charge.

Shaya looked at him in astonishment: it wasn’t, Chaim knew, because he considered the joke tasteless. It was more that he was too scared to smile. They watched silently as a team of orderlies came and detached the bed, leading a prone Hershel Levinsky to another wing.

“Maybe it’s a root canal,” Chaim said to no one.

“Okay,” said Rivky as she approached Chaim, her eyes puffy from tears and lack of sleep, but still smiling. “Baruch Hashem, they’re going to do the balloon thing and hopefully he’ll be okay. It’s nissim. Mamesh nissim, the doctor says. Tatty’s not a young man.”

Chaim nodded. “Baruch Hashem.”

He wanted to ask if he had to wait around the hospital, but Rivky was off again.

Chaim trooped along after his wife and her family and resumed saying Tehillim.

A new doctor, a gregarious Indian fellow with the demeanor of an auctioneer, came out from behind the yellow doors to update them again. Everyone stood up and Gavriel hurriedly came forward. He listened, then turned around to his siblings like a White House press secretary and offered a quick update. Cell phones came out, and reports were conveyed to children, in-laws, friends.

Most of the Levinsky children stood in a tight huddle around their mother, speaking urgently. Zalmy wanted to call Dr. Benderman, who felt close to Tatty and would be insulted if they didn’t ask his opinion. Zeldy said there was no point: Dr. Benderman worked at a different hospital, and besides, it was cut and dried, they would finish the procedure and that’s all there was to it. Why complicate things with more opinions?