October 9, 2018

“Did you go to your game night tonight?” Maga asked.

“I did.”

“How’d you do?”

“Third place.”

“Well, that’s great.”

I acknowledged the good cheer and ignored the fact we’d been in first place the majority of the evening. “You played games in college, right?”

“Oh, sure.”

“So, when you played bridge, how’d it go? Like did you play in a specific room or at dinner or after dinner?”

“Well, we had dinner in the dining room, so that would have been hard to play cards in there. We played after supper…”  She trailed off.

And I laid off pushing for more about the time before she met her husband, my grandfather, because I could tell from her tenor that the tendrils of her memories were too fine to grasp tonight. But, no matter how much or how little she remembered, I was a sponge for any detail because those times she experienced were in the same region of the world I’m in now, and yet, so very far away from what I’m currently living. In era, dress, love, finances, culture, and food.

“It’s a strange world,” Maga said. “Lots of ups and downs.”

It didn’t matter what she was specifically referencing; it was apt, it was true, and in the midst of it all, at least we had each other.



October 1, 2018

“Hi, Abby dear. Isn’t it Monday?”

“It is. But I had some time tonight and wanted to have more time to chat with you.”

“Well I sure do appreciate it. I’m lonely and missing my family tonight. I guess that happens when you get old.”

“Or when you live alone.”

“We’re in the same boat, I suppose,” Maga said. “What are you up to now?”

“Just folding some laundry.”

“That’s so great. Ha. Ha.”

Her use of sarcasm is so rare, I burst out laughing. Her hearing wasn’t top notch tonight, and she wasn’t hearing my explanation, so I quickly collected myself and tried a different tactic. “Actually, I don’t mind laundry. I’d rather do that than cook.”

“Oh. I see. You prefer that to other domestic activities.”

“You got it.”

“I always rather liked to cook. More than cleaning the house and what not.”

We may not agree on the laundry vs cooking debate, but we definitely fall on the same side of cleaning. On a night that felt lonely for us both, I hoped that commonality was enough to tide her over until Aunt J could next visit.


September 25, 2018

There was quite a bit of back and forth, but we managed to connect.

“MAGA! HI!” I fairly shouted.

“Oh, Abby, dear. So glad we could connect. I’m sorry I was busy earlier, but the pill lady arrived and when you’re 97, that’s a big part of your life.”

“Are you feeling okay? Your back?”

“I have spells when it hurts quite a bit more, but my knee is the really bad part of me.”

“Well, you do live in Colorado. Have you ever tried, you know, maraijuana?”

“Would a doctor prescribe that?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps?”

“My right knee pain is so localized. I don’t know if it would be helpful. I get a cream 2-3x a day right now. Not sure what would be better than that. All those tennis games that went to my knees.”

We chuckled and commiserated and discussed the pictures that came from the most recent glamorous family event. And then Maga dropped some very big family gossip that I won’t repeat.

I was suitably blown away by that news + the dating advice she felt the need to dispense upon me: “you don’t want to get a bad [guy], that wouldn’t work out so well” + the disappearing act she pulled shortly thereafter. I mean are dating habits nurture and not nature? Can I be taught better dating habits via a 97 year old who lives hundreds of miles away?

(I guess anything’s worth a shot, right?)


September 18, 2018

The day was any other Tuesday. The day was unique unto itself. Work was the same. Work was different. New leadership. I became some leadership. I followed. The day dragged. The day sped along. Trivia came and went. There was a substitute host. We were in the lead. We lost it. We had a new waitress. She didn’t know our orders. We were answering all the questions correct. We had a fighting chance. We blew it.

All of a sudden, the minutes rang out and I was usually 3/4 of the way home by now. I’d have to call Maga on the drive home. I apologized to the driver who took the first of two possible U-turns without any prompting and bless his soul. Yes!

Maga answered, “Hello, dear,” without any identifying information given by me. I was technically earlier than usual (if by usual you mean the past year, but not the 9-10 years prior to that.) We had our usual chat about the weather (we got doused by Tropical Storm Florence. she got hot heat hot hot august weather) and location (yes, I was at Trivia) and family (all doing grand). On my end, there was nothing (minus me not having a pen and paper to jot down her best lines) holding back the conversation. There were clear skies and no more puddles and all the U turns (yes, this drive requires at least two, sometimes three). It was clear sailing until the pill ladies arrived and outside forces shook our usual Tuesday night conversation.

We spoke of nothing much but everything in between. We were so far apart but closer than ever before.


September 11, 2018

First, I spilled water over the entire table at lunch. Second, I caught my (cheap but beloved Target) leather jacket on a random nail on a telephone pole and ripped my sleeve as I walked by it. Third, the early evening took a turn even I wasn’t anticipating. Work bled into life outside the office. I offered my opinion at a time when I normally wouldn’t. I was more involved with work politics than I intended, wanted, or cared to be.

And then, of all things, the Governor of Boston was having a meeting at the local bar where we attend trivia every Tuesday evening. We couldn’t get into the bar, but we could see the Governor leaving, and, like all politicians, in person, he was 1,000,00% more charismatic than he appeared on TV.

Because of all that, the Trivia game started later than usual, so I stepped out in the third quarter to call Maga. We chatted while my team fought to stay alive. There was bridge work and crazy loud machinery, but she could, of course, hear me without any problems. (Minus me wishing I could be inside “helping” my team.) (Yet she can’t always hear me in my quiet apartment?) We chatted about the usuals and I promised to call her back within an hour as she claimed I wouldn’t be interrupting her bedtime routine or anything.

“So how’d your game end up?” Maga asked when I called back for round two.

“We were second place. $20.”

“Oh, you can put that towards the car you’ll buy.”

I snickered, but collected myself, “Well, it’s actually $20 to split between the team of five players, so it went towards the appetizers.”

“Well, I’m glad you got home safely and well.”

I couldn’t fault her logic. As a single female, there are a couple of friends I have a code with to indicate when we’ve gotten home safely, so it was delightful to add her to the list of people who care when I’ve reached home.

I turned the subject towards her because she’s the one who’s lived 97 years and has way more interesting stories. Plus, she’s the one who went to undergrad here in the greater Boston area. She knows a lot. But due to either the time of night (11pm here, 9pm her time) or the number of years she’s lived (97), she quickly deflected the question…”It’s been so long since I’ve been at Wellesley, I’m sorry I can’t tell you completely.”

I know my probing question hit a nerve for Maga, but weirdly, her deflection felt wildly familiar, because, you know, I didn’t particularly want to talk about anything other than the weather or how my trivia team did. I know this isn’t the way people get to know each other, but then again, when one half of the party is 97 year old, sometimes all you’re left with are the tidbits and ripped patches of a cheap Target jacket…