Chapter Five: Grandma Elka and the Doctor
Illustration by Sora Leah Sicherman
“There’s no sense arguing,” said Emma. “The Alzheimer’s specialist will be here soon; let’s hear what he says.”
Miriam shook her head. “The doctor doesn’t know our family. I have only one mother and she won’t be around forever.”
“The question is,” said Emma, “what is best for Mother. She needs professional care, especially with a history like hers.”
“Emma, you care about physical needs. I care about fixing our souls and we don’t have much time; that’s all I know!”
“Miriam,” said Emma, “let’s not get into a religious argument.”
Miriam found nothing to answer. She turned to her daughter. “Cynthia, you spoke to Grandma yesterday. What do you think?”
Suddenly pushed into talking, Cynthia started stammering. “I think…well…”
“Hello!” said the doctor as he walked in. I’m looking for Elka Sholitzky.”
Miriam stood up. “Hello Doctor! I am Mrs. Sholitzky’s daughter, Miriam. This is my sister, Emma, and my daughter Cynthia. We came to take my mother home and the nurse said…”
“Actually,” said Emma, looking straight at the doctor to avoid seeing Miriam’s face, “we only came for a family visit.”
“I see.” The doctor paused to read a chart, and then glanced at Grandma. “And you, Senora, are Elka.”
Grandma eyed the doctor suspiciously. “Who are you?”
“I am Dr. Gomez.” He paused to check his notes. “Senora Sholitzky, can you point to your daughter, please?”
“Yes!” Miriam said. Cynthia squeezed her mother’s hand.
“Elka,” said the doctor, taking a seat beside the bed, “can you tell me what day it is?
“Unfortunately, it’s been this way…” said Emma.
“I see,” said Doctor Gomez. He engaged Grandma’s attention encouragingly. “Elka, do you like the Miami Marlins?”
“Yes,” Grandma said, uncertain where this conversation was leading.
The doctor engaged his patient in a regretful pose. “Elka, you don’t like the Miami Marlins, do you?”
“No,” Grandma admitted.
Doctor Gomez began to pack up his charts and equipment. “I think we’re finished now,” he said.
“Take me home now, Emma,” said Grandma.
“Mother,” said Emma, “I know how you feel but your home is sold and locked up, remember?”
“I don’t want to be here,” Grandma said.
“I have an idea,” said Miriam. “Grandma can stay with me! We can make the storage room into a bedroom and put handrails in the bathroom…”
Emma stood up and whispered, “Miriam, please keep out of this!”
“Why?” said Miriam. “She’s my mother too.”
“Yes, yes.” Said Grandma.
“I’m afraid it is not so simple,” said the doctor.
“My mother can do what she wants, right? This is a free country!” said Miriam.
“Your mother responds to cues,” said Dr. Gomez, “but she doesn’t think for herself. She doesn’t even know what day it is.”
Miriam was dumbfounded and turned to Cynthia, who stood up and spoke in her kind and reasonable voice. “How can my grandmother know anything with all the pills she’s taking in here?”
Grandma flashed a smile at her.
“But I must go now. Have a good day, everyone!”
“Thank you, Doctor,” said Emma. “Miriam, Cynthia, I have to run. Goodbye, Mother.” Kissing everyone quickly, she hurried out.
“Wait a minute, Doctor!” said Miriam, catching up with him in the hallway. “You heard that my mother wants to come home. How can anyone force her to stay in the nursing home? This is Florida, not Nazi Germany.”
“You are right,” said Dr. Gomez. He sat down on a bench in the hallway and paged through Grandma’s file. “On the other hand, your mother has a history of socializing with strange company and engaging in activities that are not normal for a woman her age.”
“Yes Doctor,” said Miriam, “but you don’t understand; all my life she was not home. When my father died she went out and supported the family. Just give us a chance!”
The doctor tapped Grandma’s file with a pen. “I understand you. But I think you should talk to the guardian. There is no choice.” He paused as if weighing the words that he wanted to say. “You should try to speak with your sister calmly. It is hard to win in court and a lawyer costs a lot of money.”
“Emma is the guardian, right?” said Miriam.
“Yes, I’m afraid so.”
“And if something happens and Emma can’t do it, then I would be the guardian?”
Doctor Gomez checked the file. “No. The next would be Emma’s husband, Zack.
Miriam struggled to keep calm. “And after that…?”
“Emma’s married children.
“Doctor Gomez!” called the nurse.
“Sorry, I have to go,” said the doctor.
Miriam watched the doctor disappear into another room. Cynthia disappeared into Grandma’s room. Miriam ran out to her car, which was filled with undelivered packages. She drove to the first customer on her list and knocked on the door. When the door opened, the same scene confronted her: a happy mother. And that mother’s children were doing their homework, combing their hair, bathing, sitting at the table, and eating the good supper their mother had cooked.