“Miriam, can you come over?” The voice I knew so well sounded weaker and more distressed than usual.
“Now?” I gulped. My challah dough, which I’d kneaded over an hour ago, was spilling over the sides of the bowl. Two of the children were in the bathtub, and another was having a temper tantrum over his homework. My husband had gone to his chavrusa, and my teenage daughter had locked herself in her room, complaining about a “killer test.”
“I’m not feeling feel so well,” Lottie said in her terse manner. My heart skipped a beat.
“I’ll be right over,” I told her, quickly getting the kids out of the tub and shouting instructions to everyone. I grabbed my coat and left the house. Lottie lived only two short blocks away, but I was tripping over my feet as I raced over, trying to banish the frightening images that were in my mind.
Poor Lottie. How did she cope night after endless night, alone with her thoughts and demons? I’d known my gentle neighbor for nearly ten years, ever since we’d moved to the neighborhood. As far as I knew, Lottie had few people who checked in on her on a regular basis. A chesed organization sent her dinners, a cleaning service showed up once every two weeks, and the rest of the time she was by herself.
Not watching where I was going, I stepped right into a puddle of icy water. Just another half a block to go. Soon the weathered front door of Lottie’s house, badly in need of paint, was straight ahead. I tried to ignore my soaked foot, my ragged breathing, the house I’d left on wheels and the remains of supper on the countertops. Lottie needed me.
My fingers scrabbled for the number lock my husband, Levi, had installed at my insistence after Lottie had called me for help one time too many and I couldn’t get in. Two, three, five and four, I whispered, as I fumbled with the frozen buttons.
The lock turned, and I was inside. A blast of warmth greeted me as I staggered in. Good thing the heat was on. Sometimes Lottie forgot about that.
“Lottie? Lottie!” I shouted, frantically searching the front room where she often sat, hunched over her knitting. She spent most of the day knitting scarves and other little projects, many of which were strewn unfinished around the house.
There was no response.
“Lottie?” I huffed up the stairs and entered her bedroom on the right. Lottie was sitting up in bed, propped up by two wilting pillows.
“Miriam!” Her face brightened when she saw me. I sat down gingerly and patted her arm.
“What’s going on, Lottie? Why are you in bed?”