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Wednesday , May 31 , 2023
The Exchange

The Exchange

By Patrick Witz posted on 9/21/2016

Author: Patrick Witz

Genre: Literary Fiction


Synopsis:  As Alzheimer disease scrambles Grandma’s memories, the old woman hints at a shocking tale. Annie, in secret, investigates her grandmother’s past. What she uncovers thrusts Annie into a heart-wrenching dilemma. Should she reveal her discoveries to the family or let the secret perish with Grandma’s fading memory?

A plastic bowl hit the wall and splatted its oatmeal contents in an arch across the wall. Large nutritional blueberries that once graced the bowl's center now formed artistic abstract purple blobs in the oozing gooey mess. Seconds later, gravity plucked the fruit from the wall and sent them careening to the floor in a pulverizing splat.


The attendant had placed the tray with the bowl, spoon, and napkin on the table across the bed over Mollie's lap. Having noted Mollie's anxiety, she knew better than to turn her back. The attendant backed in slow motion away from bed. She saw the old woman’s bowl grab, and like a Dodgeball champion made a successful sidestep maneuver out of its intended trajectory.


With arms thrown up into the air, the attendant called back at Mollie as she stormed out of the room. “Fine... just fine... your breakfast is now the janitor's to enjoy. You're going to get hungry later. Your toast is all you’ve got left to eat and lunch isn't going to be served for several hours.”


Annie watched the frustrated attendant exit the room waving her arms. She slowed her pace. Annie recognized the attendant and gave a weak smile as they passed in the hallway. The attendant recognized Annie as well from her weekly visits to see her grandmother.


“Darlin’, she's in one of her moods this morning. Remember, don't turn you back on her and be prepared for anything. She's bouncing between fuzzy warm to violent craziness. There's no reasoning with her.”


The agitated attendant continued down the hallway, mumbling. Annie could hear bits and pieces of her  grumbling, “…supervisor hates me... assigns me the crazy patients… just pissing me off…”


“Umm… thanks for the head's up.” Annie’s weak response went unheard as the still-fuming attendant stomped around the hallway corner. She knew from the attendant’s attitude that the bitter incident was going to highlighted in the patient’s log.


Annie made a resilient effort before she entered the room to call out in a loud identifying voice. “Hi, Grandma Mollie, it's your granddaughter Annie.”


She took a quick glance around the doorjamb. A piece of toast flew past her like a Frisbee, bounced off the hallway wall and landed a couple of feet away. Annie picked up the toast and took a quick glance around the doorjamb before stepping away from its protection… no additional projectiles. She held up the toast and gave her grandmother a small shameful toasty wave.


“Grandma, really!” She knew to use a loud voice for her grandmother to hear. She hoped it would as well allow Grandma Mollie to recognize her voice and person before moving towards her.


Annie glanced at the wall. “I see you've been painting the walls with what looks like your breakfast. Umm… were those blueberries in your oatmeal?” Annie paused to appreciate the artsy purplish-blue blotches and streaks still creeping down the wall.


“Go away! Leave me alone! I don't want to go to school!” Grandma Mollie yelled back.


Annie had researched her grandmother’s Alzheimer condition. She was quick to realize her ninety-one-year-old grandmother was, at that moment, re-living a time from her past. Annie surmised from the school reference that Grandma Mollie was arguing with her mother as a little girl.


To calm the situation, Annie went along with the memory mirage. “Mollie you can stay home today from school, but you will have to stop these fits right now and go back to school tomorrow!” She then watched and waited for an acknowledging response or reaction.


Grandma Mollie seemed relieved by the response and laid her head back on the pillow. The calm, understanding response seemed to flip a switch in her head. She looked up at the third-year college student with a questioning, crinkled brow.


“Who are you?”


Like the previous visits over the past six months, Annie understood and accepted the questioning. She answered that same repeated question for the hundredth time.


“I'm your granddaughter, Annie. I was here last week visiting. Do you remember my last visit?”


Grandma Mollie responded in a firm unappreciative tone. “I don't have grandchildren. For heaven's sake girl, I just got married two weeks ago. You’re in the wrong house, child. Now you go before my husband gets here. He's not as forgiving as me. So, git!”


“Grandma, you’re in a memory care facility. I am your granddaughter. It's July 2015. Grandpa died fifteen years ago. You and grandpa were married for over fifty years. You have three daughters, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Do you remember any of this?”



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