By Rachel Stein

“Linda, I have some great news to share.”

You just never know what’s going to hit you in the middle of a Kroger aisle.

“I like good news,” I replied, waiting for Jillian, my good friend of many years, to enlighten me.

“I was planning to call you,” she said, “and you saved me the trouble.”

Yup, that’s life. Unfortunately, we humans need to eat. And eat. But that’s for another dilemma.

Rachel Stein

Rachel Stein

“Sandy is going to get engaged!”

“Congratulations!” I shrieked. “Mazel tov! Wow! Who’s the lucky guy?”

“Jakie Abramson.” Jillian beamed like a 200-watt light bulb.

An iron fist rammed into my stomach, and it was all I could do not to gasp. Jakie Abramson? The same Jakie Abramson who went to grade school with my Tami? Does she know? Does she have any idea?

I cleared my throat. “Very nice. His parents are Mel and Dena, right? Both doctors?”

“Yup.” Her grin stretched wider, if possible. “I don’t think financial issues will be a concern for them. They’re going to be well taken care of.”

I nodded, my lips heavy with a counterfeit smile. Money is great, don’t get me wrong. But at what cost?

“And what is Jakie doing?”

“He’s in law school. Has one more year to go.”

“Impressive,” I murmured. “Such beautiful news. Well, you should have a lot of joy from the new couple.”

“Thank you so much!” She leaned toward me, and we gave each other a quick hug.

Now, do I want Cocoa Pebbles or Honey Nut Cheerios? Dazed, I browsed the cereals, barely seeing the rows of multicolored boxes. Do I have an obligation to tell Jillian what I know?

Tami used to come home brimming with Jakie stories. Throughout her elementary school years until the middle of fifth grade, these tidbits were on the tip of her tongue the moment she arrived home from a long school day.

“Mommy, Jakie got kicked out of class again today.”

“Jakie pretended he was Superman and had to be taken to the hospital.”

“Jakie screamed at the teacher and kicked the principal.”

“Jakie laughed when Sarah’s grandma died.”

“Jakie punched Alex.”

“Jakie doesn’t come to school anymore.” I remember breathing a sigh of relief that this monster was distanced from my innocent child. Who knew what terrible things she could pick up from being in his proximity?

At the same time, my heart twisted when I imagined the angst of the Abramsons. How were they coping with the situation? Fine, upstanding members of the community, and to have a child like that. Were they ashamed? Did they feel judged? And what was wrong with him?

Whispers of bipolar abounded at the shul Kiddush.

“No,” one maven replied, “he has ODD. It’s treatable with therapy.”

“So is bipolar,” another yenta insisted, “with the right medication.”

So many years have passed, yet the memories are so clear, I could reach out and touch them. Grabbing both boxes of cereal, I plodded toward the next aisle with a heavy heart.

As I saw it, there were two possibilities. Perhaps Jillian knew Jakie’s history and chose to overlook it. After all, this is old history, and he is now an upstanding young man. Whether with medication, therapy, maturity or some combination, his future looks promising, so why delve into the murky past?

Or, I gulped, she’s clueless and would have never considered Jakie for her daughter had she known the truth. More important, Sandy would never have gone out with Jakie had she been informed.

What if he has a recurrence? Where would that leave Sandy and her future children? Shackled to an unstable father and trying to cope in a dizzying maelstrom of mental illness? Doesn’t she deserve to know the real picture so she can guide her daughter and make an informed decision?

The doubts hammer away, relentless. If I open my mouth, will I be guilty of destroying what could have been a beautiful union? Am I playing G-d, or simply exercising my responsibility as a friend who cares?

Your input would be of great value to me as I navigate this rocky path. I look forward to hearing from you.

To have your suggestions for Linda’s dilemma printed in Shared Spirit, email rachels83@gmail.com by Monday, Dec. 19.