4.16.19

April 16, 2019

“I figured when I didn’t hear from you last week that you were off somewhere,” Maga said.

“I was! I thought my phone would work, so I didn’t warn you. But then I tried to call you and…nothing…”

“I thought you had one of those phones that worked everywhere.”

“Yeah, me too. But since it didn’t work, I wrote you a postcard instead. You should be getting it soon.”

“Thank you! I’ll look forward to that. How was the weather there?”

“Perfect. Sunny. Warm. Lovely.”

“The Caribbean general has pretty good weather.”

“You can say that again.”

“Did you do much swimming?”

“Actually, yes. About half of the days. I’ve never seen water so clear before.”

“How nice.”

“Did you like swimming?” Her pause confused me. I wasn’t sure if she couldn’t hear me or was deep in thought. “You know, when you were younger?”

“Oh, yes. I loved going to the beach, bouncing around in the waves.”

“Did you take many family trips to the beach?”

“Yes. They were special. When you have young children you don’t like to go off and leave them especially, so you take them with you.”

It was my turn to get lost in thought, as I was busy imaging Maga “bouncing in the waves” and my mom on the beach. My mom, who is always doing something, going somewhere, planning something…and who doesn’t enjoy lounging around on the sand.

“Did you get a suntan?” Maga’s voice broke into my reverie.

“No! But then again, I didn’t want one.”

“I suppose it is a weird time of year for a tan.”

“Well that and the sun is dangerous. I didn’t want to expose my skin.”

“Yes, those ultraviolet rays can be trouble.”

“You can say that again.”

“It’s fun that you had a little winter vacation. April is often cold and rainy.”

It’s true. April often has a bit of an identity crisis (is it a winter or spring month?) and so this trip, this break from my real life was oh so needed and the fact that tonight we covered variations of these topics more often than I reapplied sunscreen last week, didn’t bother me as it’s nothing but a joy¬†to journey back to the sun drenched days I spent in St. Maarten.

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4.2.19

April 2, 2019

“Have you spoken to any relatives lately,” Maga asked.

“Not in person, but on text messages and FaceTime, yes.”

“Oh, those phones these days.”

“You got it.”

“Have you spoken to your mother lately? How’s she doing?”

“Busy with the [College] record book.”

“Oh, yes. That is keeping her so busy, isn’t it?”

“Did you work on your [College] reunion record book?”

“No, your mother’s a bit more involved than I am.”

I laughed, but was then struck by the truth of her words. At the honesty. At the authenticity.

[Which I recognized due to all prior conversations + visits + recent chats with my mother and her siblings, which mostly occurred while we were there for her 98th birthday.]

Grandparents can be more honest with their grandkids because there’s a level of distance there. You can be a more authentic version of yourself because you don’t have to be perfect, because you’ve had time to come to terms with yourself, because you’re not the one in charge. It’s the same as being an aunt/uncle. [Which rocks!] You can support the younger generation while knowing they’re in the best hands – their parents’ – so all you have to do is provide the fun, the sunshine, the love.

3.26.19

March 26, 2019

I spent the weekend with Maga and my mom and my aunt/uncles. It was, as it has been for the past five years, amazing getting to sit back and watch my mom be a sister rather than a mom. Watching my mom and aunt/uncles remember old times, revert to habitual familiar roles, learn each other anew.

Meanwhile Maga’s memory’s gotten worse and worse, as evidenced when we were all sitting in her room chatting and watching TV and she dozed off only to awaken a few minutes later, look around, and declare, “When’d you all arrive?”

The humor and the sorrow balanced each other out.

And tonight, as I chatted with Maga while in a taxi home, Maga’s memory was better than average, yet her words were slightly less so. “I was so glad to see you and the other nice relatives this weekend.”

It’s a tough balance to maintain: one where Maga is fading, but the other members of the family remain vibrant and hilarious. One where she’s accepted her fate and we’re equal parts sad with memories and happy with forward momentum. One where she remains grounded and we (Uncle P and me) are up in the sky floating and living and seeking new paths forward. One where the roots Maga planted are strong and healthy and are the foundation for this life she started…it’s up to us to continue onward, even though she’s 98 and even as she asked me,” How can anyone be that old?”

“With style,” I said.

And we all can only hope to mirror that sentiment.

3.19.19

March 19, 2019

“Are you going on a trip soon?” Maga asked.

“Yes! To visit YOU, Maga!”

“Well, no. Not that.”

I deflated a bit. “It’s a big trip, Maga! I thought you’d be excited about it?!”

“Well, I am,” she said. But clearly she wasn’t.

Oof. Some of her turns of phrase… they cut.

We talked further and she clarified she was excited about my coming to visit her; it’s just that she wasn’t excited about her lack of memory of who had a big trip coming up.

She kept up the questions. I kept not having answers. “Maga. People tell you more things than they do me.”

“No.”

“Yes, truly. You’re the gossip queen.”

“I am?”

“Yes. For real. No one tells me anything. I’m the last to know always.”

“Really?”

“Truly.”

“You mean people tell me more things?”

“Truly.”

With that settled, she veered back to the course of the prior conversation. Having had some space, I quickly realized she meant Sister E and her upcoming trip, which I was happy to gush about.

“Do people in far off countries know how to use computers?” Maga asked, each word dripped with incredulity.

“In fact, they do.”

“Well, thank goodness for Thomas Edison who invented the telephone so we can keep in touch.”

I didn’t have the heart to correct her because nearly every word was punctuated by a cough. “Are you feeling okay, Maga?” I asked. “That cough sounds different than usual.”

“Yes, I know. This has gotten ahold of me or I’ve gotten ahold of it.”

Some of her turns of phrase…man, they get me. It’s like she’s got an accent or something because nearly everything she says sounds more interesting, not to mention, I didn’t know germs could sound so charming!

3.12.19

March 12, 2019

“Did you try to call me just now?” Maga said.

“I did. But the phone was weird. Your answering machine didn’t pick up.”

“I was on the other line.”

“Talking to anyone I know?”

“An old neighbor friend.”

“Oh, that’s so nice! How is she?”

“Well, she’s having trouble with one of her doctors and wanted to tell somebody about it.”

“Oh, umm, that’s not so nice.”

“Hold on, Abby dear. It’s the changing of the guard.” I then spent the better part of 10 minutes “on hold” while Maga said goodbye to one caregiver and hello to the next one. And by “on hold” I mean she put the phone in her lap and I eavesdropped on the entire conversation. It’s probably best I did because the night caregiver arrived slightly late, which always sets Maga in a tizzy, so I was able to get the lay of the land and turned up the sunshine in my voice a few extra notches.

“Hello? Abby?”

“Yes, I’m still here. Hi, Maga.”

“Are you there?”

“Yes!”

“I don’t know this new lady.” Her voice was frazzled, though her words were confident.

“She’s been there before on multiple Saturdays. You’re in good hands.”

“I don’t remember her.”

“Well, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been there. It just means you’re almost 98…”

That got the chuckle I was hoping for.

“What have you been up to lately?”

“I was down in NC visiting my Aunt A.”

“Oh, yes! I liked her very much when we knew each other. It was awhile ago. I’d love to see her again.”

I thought about how they probably hadn’t seen or spoken to each other in decades, but how Maga still wanted her to visit. Or how she was willing to quiet her own complaining to listen to the gripes of her elderly neighbor. My heart ached with the loneliness she must be feeling. I turned the sunshine in my voice up a few more notches, as I detailed my father’s family tree for her.

“Is work going well?” Maga asked.

“Sure.” (I said desperately clinging onto the sunshine…)

“That’s sort of yes.”

“Uh huh.”

“Well, that’s how we’ll put it for now.”

And with that new definition, I felt better. The sunshine in my voice wasn’t forced for the remainder of our time together.