8.11.20

August 11, 2020

“Hi, Maga! It’s Abby.”

“Hello, Abby dear. You have good timing. We just got back from a walk.”

“And how was your walk?”

“It was nice. It’s calm and clear and bright.”

“That sounds quite lovely.”

“Do you have to wear a mask,” Maga asked.

“Not in my house, but outside, yes.”

“Me too.”

“And you wear it?”

“Oh, yes. Anytime I leave my room. It’s very important.”

“In fact it. We have to keep everyone, including ourselves, safe!”

“And where are you right now?” Maga asked.

“At my parents’ house.”

“How long have you been there?”

“About a month.”

“What?”

“4 weeks.”

“Oh, you’ve been there a month?”

“Yup. You got it.”

“Well what have you been doing? Lots of trips?”

I chuckled. “Uh, no. Pretty much the only time I leave the house is for a morning walk. Or a bike ride on the weekend.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Not very exciting.”

“When are you coming here for a visit?”

“As soon as travel is allowed, I’ll be there.”

“Until then, thank you for calling. It’s lovely to hear your cheerful voice.”

“I’m happy to talk to you!”

“You’re in NJ?”

“Yes.”

“With who?”

“My mom, dad and [Sister E].”

“Do I have your mom’s number?”

“Yes.”

“Wait wait wait. Let me get a pen and paper.” Rustling noises ensued along with a few more “wait, waits.” “Okay, I’m ready.”

I gave her the details.

“Who’s number is this?” Maga asked.

“The house number. My mom’s house.”

“Yes, but who’s your mom?”

The conversation went like that awhile longer. I didn’t mind repeating myself or reminding her who my relatives were or what time it was here on the East Coast because Caregiver M had sent me this picture and it was great to see her face again. I focused on this instead of my answers, because it’s good to see she still never leaves the house without lipstick on even if she has to cover it up with a mask.

8.4.20

August 4, 2020

“Hi, Maga! It’s Abby,” I said, taking the phone from my mom’s hand as we started a steep uphill ascent on the neighborhood walk.

“Abby?”

“Yes! Hi!”

“What are you doing?”

“Well, we’re on a walk around the neighborhood.”

“Oh.”

“Oh, wow! There’s a huge tree down up ahead.” (Thank you, Tropical Storm Isaias.)

“What’s that?” Maga said.

“The wind knocked down some branches and one is covering nearly half the street.”

“Oh. I thought you said three.”

“Well,” I looked at my companions (my mother and father), “there are three of us on this walk. The three amigos.”

“Like companions.”

“Or a movie.”

“There’s someone here,” Maga said. I could hear Caregiver M talking and then Maga dropped the phone to her lap. After a brief rustling, Maga’s voice came back and we reached the top of the hill, only to have another hill to climb, so I maintained control of the phone.

“Like a nurse?”

“No.” And then she began to recite some words about hair salons and how the governor hadn’t yet made a decision on how they could open safely. “Want to make your voice heard? Call the [state] department of health at 303.692.2000. Let’s make some noise.”

Mom and I looked at each other. “Is that a commercial?” I asked.

“A flyer?” Mom asked.

Maga recited it all over again.

“You don’t need to go to the salon,” Mom said. “Caregiver M does your hair beautifully.”

“I haven’t had my hair done,” Maga said. (Maybe it wasn’t done it a salon, but reader, she had. That morning. We’d seen gorgeous pictorial evidence. There isn’t much Caregiver M can’t do.)

“I haven’t had my hair cut since February,” I said.

“Do you remember when you used to perm my hair?” Mom said to Maga. “I was 5.”

“No, I don’t remember that,” Maga said.

“Tell me more,” I said.

“My bangs became about 1/2″ long!” Mom could barely get up the hill, speak, and laugh at the same time. Ditto for me. Maga chuckled reluctantly. Dad was about 50 yards behind us at this point, more interested in how many tree branches fell than hair styles and salons.

Maga found the flyer in her lap and recited it all over again, which gave us time to catch our collective breath. As she started reading it for the fourth time, I chimed in word for word.

“What should I say?” Maga said.

“You could tell them you’d like the salon in your care center opened.”

“What number should I call?”

“303,” Mom and I started at the same time.

“Hold on!” Maga said. “Let me get a pen.”

We waited and we walked. Maga got the number and some advice on what to say and who she was to call. “Where is it?” she asked.

“Downtown,” Mom said.

“I’m not going to go there,” Maga said, crunching on something.

“Are you eating something?” I asked.

“Popcorn,” Maga said.

“They dropped off the flyer and some popcorn,” Caregiver M said.

Having a bucket of popcorn at this point in the conversation seemed awfully apropos.

“So the number is 303.692.2000,” Maga said. “And it’s where?”

“Downtown,” Mom repeated.

“I’m not going there!” Maga repeated.

“No, no. You’re to ask about the hair salon at [Care Center],” Mom said.

“A hair storm?” Maga said.

It seemed we’d come full circle literally, figuratively, conversationally.

7.28.20

July 28, 2020

“Hi, Maga. It’s Abby!”

“How are you dear?”

“I’m doing well. And you?”

“I’m not the happiest person in the world.”

“Oh, no. Why not?”

“I have no close friends nearby.”

“The pandemic makes it feel like that, for sure.”

“It’s just awful.”

It honestly is. In so many ways. And to think that you’ve lived 99 full years only to be rewarded with isolation? It sucks hardcore. I tried hard to think of ways to lift her spirits.

“I heard you got your hair done today by Caregiver M,” I said trying to pivot her attention towards a happy event.

“I did.”

“And how do you feel? All shiny and fresh?”

Maga chuckled, but it was half-hearted.

“Oh my goodness,” she said. “There are a lot of shampoos!”

Is her TV listening to us the same way FB or IG do??? Yikes. Things were feeling topsy turvy, so I decided to throw caution to the wind.

“Maga, do you remember when we went to Hawaii for your 40th anniversary?”

“Oh, yes. That was sort of fun.”

“Sort of?? I’d say VERY.”

Maga chuckled a little more realistically.

“I remember when everyone went snorkeling, but Cousin H and I were too little, so we had to stay behind. You and Jobo stayed with us and you brought McDonalds and we had breakfast in bed.”

“How do you remember that?”

“It was a big moment in my young life.”

Maga chuckled for real.

I went for broke. “How did you and Jobo meet again?”

“Oh, you know, I don’t really remember. He was at MIT. I was at Wellesley.”

“But was it a blind date?”

“Hmm. I don’t know. I think it was through friends.”

“Whatever way it was, it worked. And it worked for my parents too. They met the same way. Ish.”

“He was a good one.”

“I’d agree with that.”

“There are good, medium, and bad ones. He was a super good one.”

Reader, he was a good one. The best. The foundation he and Maga put together for the legacy they’ve created is one for the record books. Well, my record books anyways. And when you’re in the middle of a pandemic and your world has shrunk to a tiny portion of what it once was, it’s a lot easier to feel like you’re queen of that domain and can decree things like “one for the record books” and “queen” and “my domain.”

7.21.20

July 21, 2020

“Where are you?” Maga asked.

“I’m at my parents’ house.”

“How were you able to do that?”

“My dad drove up to get me.”

“That was nice.”

“It was…” I dropped the phone and as I bent to pick it up, accidentally grabbed it by the hang up the phone button. After a few calls back went directly to voicemail, I got through.

“Did we get disconnected?” Maga asked.

“We did. Sorry. My fault.”

“That’s okay. I forgive you.”

“What are you up to tonight?” I asked.

“I’m working on a jigsaw puzzle. [Caregiver M] is helping.”

“That sounds rather fun.”

“Well, it’s not bad when you get right down to it.” As I chuckled, she continued, “38 across. Ask about. Query. Do you think that’s it?”

“Was the clue ask about query?”

“No. The answer is query.” As she spelled it out, I have to assume she was simultaneously writing it down. “Yes. I’m right.”

“31 down. [Cargiver M] could you come over here?”

“Dear, you have Abby on the phone. Talk to her.” As Maga repeatedly asked for her help (and ignored me), M went to get her glasses. “Casanova.”

“Well,” M said. “That’s going to be playboy.”

“That’s exactly right!” Maga said. “Very good!”

“49 down is going to be love,” Maga continued, as M and I listened on.

I suppose that’s one definition of it. Listening, helping, comforting, spelling.

Another one is reminding your grandmother of her daughter-in-law’s birthday today. (Happy birthday, Aunt C!) As I went over the details of that phone number, Caregiver M reminded Maga she’d already talked to her today and wished her a happy birthday.

Maga crushed the rest of the crossword puzzle. [Caregiver M] crushed crossing off Maga’s to do list. I crushed…well…listening to Maga’s daily activities. A rather successful Tuesday evening. ;)

7.14.20

July 14, 2020

The conversation started out as it usually does. Maga was munching on her dinner and I, with my virtual book club plans canceled last minute, had nothing but time on my hands, so I sat silently between each bite or made random comments about the weather, my job, my office, how I wished I could see her, how far about we lived, how she didn’t need sleeping pills because she had plenty of time before bed to get tired and so on and so forth.

It was all business as usual until Maga asked me a question. “When did we start this Tuesday business?”

I perked up at this display of her memory of our phone calls. “It was around the time Jobo died. Maybe a few months after that.”

Neither of us could remember when that was, but the ever trusty Caregiver M informed us it was, “May. About 13 years ago.” She would know, as that’s the same time she started working with Maga.

And then somehow that conversation meandered over to travel.

“Is there anywhere you didn’t get to go to that you wished you had?” I asked.

“Oh yes. I didn’t get to Europe much.”

“Maga! Yes, you did.”

“Well, let’s see. I went to England, France, Italy…”

“See! You’ve been all over Europe. Oh, and Germany,” I supplied.

“Yes,” Caregiver M agreed. “I remember you told me about going to Berlin.”

“And Switzerland,” I said.

“Oh yes. I did go there. How did you know that?”

“You were there with my mom and Aunt J and that’s when Neal Armstrong walked on the moon!”

“That’s right!”

“I’ll never forget that story!”

“He certainly was courageous to do that,” Maga said.

“What do you think it was like to walk on the moon?”

“Well, once you get there, there’s not much to see or do.”

“Kind of like here. In pandemic times.”

Maga chuckled. “How long does it take to get to the moon?”

“I have no idea. Let me look it up.”

“You can do that?”

“I can and I am. It takes 3 days.”

“If only I had some sleeping pills…”

“Well, if you do wake up, just think of the moon.”

“That’s not a bad idea. You’re pretty bright.”

“Thanks! Or, you could try reading. That’s what I do when I wake up in the middle of the night.”

“Do you wake up in the middle of the night?”

“Often.”

“What are you reading?”

“A book called A Woman is No Man.”

“Well that’s for sure.”

We may not be able to see each other in person, but this was a proper Tuesday night hangout session with a conversation that lingered for a total of 70 minutes, through the changing of the guard, around the local weather patterns, and out to the moon and back.