I’m standing at the mirror applying the finishing touches to my makeup. I’m wearing my favorite earrings, and a new to me blouse in a peach color that flatters my wrinkled skin. Today I need to look my best.
Soon I’ll drive to a half an hour to have lunch in an upscale restaurant with my brother and his family…
As I drive my mind drifts back to that terrible day when I learned that my brother was suing me in court, not even in Bais Din.
That lawsuit, was the culmination of a series of bad acts, intended it seems to rob me of my of my inheritance.
My brother didn’t rob me at gunpoint; Instead he signed our senile father on documents. Where? In his lawyer’s office, in his home, in our father’s apartment?
What did he tell our Dad—that signing this paper would help his children? How could he? We had been such a close family and an honest one. My father, a self-made man and a survivor had prided himself on his spotless reputation in business. What led my brother to stray?
No, point in analyzing it…I don’t know. I don’t think he’ll ever know. He had his reasons. The halacha requires me to judge him favorably, even to love him. Yes to love him. Perhaps in the same situation I might have done the same. And now it’s over and my brother has invited me out to lunch.
I’m alone…My husband can’t miss work, My sons are in yeshiva. Am I ready to break bread with him?
A therapist I saw shortly after he filed his lawsuit didn’t mince words“He’s a horrible guy, causing you such heart ache and so many legal fees.” She told me to cut him off , delete him from my life. My Rav disagreed. He insisted that I maintain a relationship but how? What role will he play in my life?
As I drive I remember a conversation with a friend whose brother did worse things to her than mine did to me.
“Think about the future, the next generation. about making a relationship with them”
Not him, the kids…That is my mantra.
At twelve I near the restaurant. No parking. Maybe this is a sign to go home. Then I notice a space, small and tight. I try to back in but I fail. A young chassid motions to me. “Let me do it.”
He climbs into my car takes the wheel and glides in. Is heaven smiling at me at my acquiescence to my brother’s peacemaking gesture?
The restaurant, is packed is full of wealthy people decked out in the latest styles, clothing so new you can almost see the labels hanging down . My own outfit suddenly looks shabby. I don’t find my brother. Maybe he’s not here but then I hear my name being called. He and his family are seated in the patio waiting for me.
I sit near a granddaughter but my brother’s wife points to the corner where my brother is sitting. “Sit there,” she orders.
I don’t want to pick a fight so I follow her command.
My brother smiles at me his upturned lips causing his eyes to squint.
A year before while our lawyers were still fighting, my brother wanted to see me…He offered me a deal, a bad one and I refused. Two months later we struck a different and better deal. He insisted on a face to face meeting. It was hard. .As soon as he walked into the room, my body turned to stone and words poured from my mouth involuntarily as if I were channeling prophecy.
“I bless you that you should never go through what I went through.’
Afterwards I shook so badly that I could hardly drive myself home.
Today my body is still. Instead of jeremiads we engage in small talk.
“Try the California roll.”
“That salad reminds me of something Mom used to make,”
My brother doesn’t bring up our conflict. He certainly doesn’t apologize. I don’t expect him to. According to psychologist Harriet Lerner when people commit really grievous offenses they rarely apologize because owning their bad deeds will upend their low self esteem.
It’s hard to believe that my brother suffers from low self esteem but it seems that people who covet that which isn’t there’s don’t think well of themselves. Otherwise they would be happy with their lots.
My fiftieth birthday is a month away but a waiter arrives at our table singing Happy Birthday. carrying a plate of chocolate mousse cake with a sparkler in it. My favorite dessert. My brother remembered but I’m annoyed. Does he think that he can buy me with cake?
I check my watch. Two hours have passed. My parking is up. I don’t want to get a ticket.
As I get ready to leave my brother tries to hug me but my body stiffens. t I’m not ready for a hug and yet I don’t want to hate him. I want to have compassion for him. Hurt people hurt people,. My brother is a hurt person…
We aren’t young anymore. I need to release him. I don’t want to go to my grave with a heart filled with hate.
“Goodbye, Thanks.” I wave to the family.
I did it. I saw him and I wont see him again soon—thank G-d we don’t live near enough for that. I’m free now. Free to drive back into my own life.