9.10.19

September 10, 2019

“I saw Aunt C and Uncle N today,” Maga said.

“Or, as I like to call them, Mom and Dad.”

*pause* “Oh. Yeah. I guess that’s right. Have you seen them much?”

“My parents?”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“They’re visiting you. I’m in Massachusetts.”

“Where?”

“Massachusetts.”

*pause* “Oh. I’m sounding a bit mixed up and confused, I bet.”

“I don’t mind.”

“I bet you don’t. I’m just looking at my calendar trying to figure out what’s what.” She recited a bunch of line items, including how one of my uncles called her.

“You record when people telephone you?” I asked.

“Sometimes.”

“Do you ever record when I call?”

“No, because I know every Tuesday we talk. That’s our day, right?”

“It is.” I guess after 10 years or so, it was bound to stick in her brain, even if nothing else was tonight.

“I’m just looking at my calendar trying to figure out what’s what.”

“And what have you figured out?”

She recited the same line items as before. Including wondering why no one had invited her to dinner. I tried to explain potential various reasons of where Aunt C and Uncle N might be. I attempted to divert the conversation to other family members and their recent travels. I even did a deep dive into my own daily activities (work and friends, etc.), but she wouldn’t let go of the hurt and disappointment at not being invited to tonight’s meal. Mind you, I doubt there was anything spectacular going on and she had a caregiver with her so she wasn’t alone and her hearing’s been better (or maybe it was just my phone) and her memory was slippery at best.

And so, I went over my mom’s phone number with Maga. “908…” I said again and again and again. Digit by digit by digit. The last four digits seemed just out of grasp. Over and over and over it we went. Then, she put it all together.

“That’s it! Perfect.”

“I’ll give your mom a call once we’re done talking.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

“One more time, it’s 908…” The middle three digits now befuddled her. And so I went over and over and over them. She had it. Until she didn’t.

“So, it’s 823…” she said.

I nearly lost it. Just like she somehow lost the phone number we’d gone over umpteen times. “Okay, nope. Let’s try it again.”

Amidst the recitation of numbers, I began to understand how, even when surrounded with people, one can feel alone and just like that, I had a clear view into Maga’s sad, disappointed, confused state of mind. Hopefully that clear view softened the frustration ringing through my tone.

I only wish my phone’s audio worked well enough for me to explain that she shouldn’t feel left out, but grateful she got to see my parents today and yesterday and Sunday and will for nearly a week more yet and to know how hard they’re working to get her house in shape, but sometimes when the mind is fluid and not retaining facts, no matter how practical and logical one is, the only thing that sticks is emotion.

And in this case, it was better for me to step aside and let the mother and daughter work it out. I made sure she had my mom’s phone number, took off my referee shirt, and bid her adieu.

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9.3.19

September 3, 2019

“And what have you been up to?” Maga asked.

“Work and hanging with friends and a concert and lots of reading.”

“What are you reading?”

“Well, I just finished WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING.”

“The what?”

I repeated the title with an extra emphasis on craw-dad.

“Can they sing?” Maga asked.

“Aren’t they fish?” I asked.

“Yes,” Maga said.

“Huh. I never thought about the title until this very moment. Umm, I think it’s more of a sound they make rather than actual singing,” I said.

“And what else did you do?” Maga said, clearly done with book club talk.

“I went to a concert by a country musician. I don’t think you know them.”

“They’re more current and popular music?”

“You got it.”

“They played at Fenway which is where the Red Sox usually play.”

“You were at a restaurant called SunRise?”

“I was at Fenway where the Red Sox play. The baseball team.”

“You were at Sun Way?’

“Yes.” I gave in to either her hearing issues or my phone’s issues.

“And what band were you seeing?”

“A country band that’s more recent. I don’t know if you know of them.”

“Their name?”

“Zac Brown Band.”

“Jack Brown?”

“Sure.” I gave in again. Maybe Jack Brown is Zac’s brother and he’s good with a fiddle. “And what have you been up to? Staying out of trouble?”

She let loose quite the chuckle. “I’ve not been getting into trouble. I assure you. I’ve been a good girl for a long time.”

I wanted to ask her to elaborate. I was ready to battle the audio challenges. I was ready. And so was she…to go on a walk outside “in the rather nice weather before the sun has set.”

Oh, boy. She tapped into one of my weaknesses. Who am I to stand in the way of her and the Colorado sunset?

“Sunsets are my favorite. I certainly don’t want to hold you up,” I said.

“Mine too. Thank you for calling. I always enjoy our time together.”

“As do I. Now go and enjoy your sunset!”

Thousands of miles apart but under the same sky. It never stops being a comforting thought, even if neither of us can hear it properly.

8.27.19

August 27, 2019

“You sound chipper,” I said.

“I do?”

“Yes.”

“I’m glad you told me,” Maga said, as if she couldn’t feel the upbeat attitude she was projecting. (I guess at 98yo your feelings dull a bit?) “I miss you all.” (Guess her feelings are back in working mode.)

“I miss you too.”

“You do?”

“Of course.”

“Good.” (Yup, her feelings are definitely back in working order.) “Are you going somewhere this weekend?”

“Nope.”

“Oh, I thought you were.”

“Nope… Oh. I know what you’re thinking of. [Aunt J] is traveling to see my mom. They’re going to the US Open like always.”

“The tennis tournament?”

“The very one.”

“That was my game!”

“I know! Did you ever play doubles?”

“Yes.”

“With other females only or did you play with co-ed partners?”

“Mixed doubles.”

“Oh, yes. That’s it! That’s what I meant.”

“Yes, I did play.”

“Who were your partners?”

“Jobo. Sons. Your dad.”

“My dad?”

“[N] is your dad…?”

“Yes.”

“I think he played too.”

“You had all sorts of tennis players in your life. I love it! I think [Cousin P] was the most accomplished though. He played in college.”

“Yes. He was quite good. Do you play?”

“A little bit.”

“You should play a little bit more. Get good at it. It’s good exercise.”

“Indeed it is. For now, I just go for runs and I walk a lot.”

“I walk a lot too.”

I think she means her caregivers take her for a lot of walks, but who am I to mess with her current reality? I’m happy to point out when she’s chipper, but I’m not going to point out any physical limitations. After all, she was quite a tennis player and I’m happy she was still able to correct me on the details of the sport. Time together with her is time together whether or not I’m on the losing end of the conversation.

8.20.19

August 20, 2019

“It’s hard to lose valuable things,” Maga said, “like teeth.”

“And a roof.”

“A what?”

“Never mind. I was agreeing with you. Teeth are a tough thing to lose. I’m sorry to hear about your toothache.”

“I know. It’s the pits.”

“I hope the dentist will be able to help manage the pain.”

“Me too. I hope he doesn’t have to pull it.”

“Eek. Me too!”

“Do you have any upcoming trips planned?”

“I was just in Maine this past weekend.”

“Who were you visiting?”

“[Sister J].”

*silence*

“[Sister J]’s in-laws have a house up there,” I clarified.

“Oh, that’s right. I think I remember hearing that. So you were all up there together?”

“We were. Mom and Dad and [Sister J] and her family and her in-laws. Actually, do you remember talking to us on Saturday night?”

*silence* “Oh, I guess I do. When you all called me.”

“Yup!”

“How old did you say you were?” Maga asked.

“Umm, I didn’t…”

“Well how old are you?’

“38.”

“Really?

“Yes.”

“Really??”

“Yes.”

“No, you don’t meant it.”

“Okay, you’re right. I’m 27.”

*silence* “Oh, come on. I know how long you’ve been on this good earth. You have a few years accumulated.”

Just when you think you’ve pulled one over on her, her memory snaps back and she’s able to remind you you’ve got some miles under your shoes. But there are still so many miles to go to reach the standard she’s setting at 98! She sure knows how to set that bar high.

8.13.19

August 13, 2019

“And how are you, Maga?” I asked.

“I’m not going to win any battles, but I’m still here so that’s something.”

“I’ll say!”

“Have you had any visitors lately?”

“Nope.”

“Really?”

“Truly. You get more than me!”

“You have an extra bedroom, right?”

“Yes.”

“So if someone wanted to visit and stay the night, they could?”

“Yes. Do you want to?”

Peals of laughter spilled out from the phone. “Well, maybe not just yet.”

I liked how she phrased that, as if the time for her to be able to come visit wasn’t right now, but it wasn’t far away either.

“Do you have any trips coming up?” Maga asked.

“I’ll be in Maine this weekend with [Sister J] and [B-I-L-T].”

“Oh, I love Maine. I used to go up there all the time. A friend of my mother’s had a really lovely house up there with tennis courts and everything.”

“Wow! That sounds amazing.”

“It really was. It was there I played tennis with…” She trailed off purposefully, as if I was supposed to know who she played tennis with. (Honestly? I was too busy trying to spell her mother’s friend’s name so I could re-write it here.) (I failed.)

“Who’d you play tennis with?”

“A.J. Cronin.”

The pride in her voice made me feel guilty for asking, “Who’s that?”

“He wrote books. He loved tennis. I’m not sure how he knew Auntie [Name-I-Didn’t-Quite-Catch], but we played quite a bit of tennis together. I wonder if he’s still alive?”

“Was he your age?”

“No, he was a bit older.”

“Did you ever read any of his books?”

“Oh, yes. Many of them.”

“I’ll have to look him up.”

“You should. His books are quite enjoyable.”

And now I’m in a book club with my 98yo grandmother.

“Do you have any pets?” Maga asked.

“Nope. Not as an adult.”

“You’ve never had any pets??”

“Not really, no. What about you?”

“Oh, yes, we had pets.”

“I mean what about when you were a kid?”

“Oh, no. My mother’s mother didn’t like animals, and, we lived with her.”

“SO THAT’S WHERE I GET IT FROM!”

“You don’t like animals?” Maga’s voice was choked with incredulity. Or was it familiarity?

“Umm, not really no. But apparently it’s genetic!”

“Guess so. She didn’t like animals so we didn’t have any. We lived with her.”

“Her house her rules, huh?”

“Yep. She owned the house so she made the rules.”

“Seems fair.”

It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself / your family history from just a bit of small talk.