Voices screeched across my phone, which meant Maga had the TV on. Politics politics politics. The new Supreme Court Justice nomination.

“Do you have your TV on?” Maga asked. “This is all very interesting.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Why not?”

“I have the internet on.”

“Oh. Is it quieter?”

In one way, yes. In another way, no.

“Do you think he’ll be a good candidate?” she said.

“No. He’s against abortion and Planned Parenthood and civil rights.”

“Oh, the horrors.”

“You’re telling me.”

Because I was fighting a losing battle against the TV for her attention, I upped the ante. “How do you feel about abortion?”

“I have nothing against it. If they can’t afford another baby or if the health of the mother is a problem. But not if it’s a foolish decision.”

“Agreed. But mainly I just don’t think a man should get to say what happens to my uterus.”

“Well, yes. That’s true. He’s wrong for that job. How do you like Trump so far?”

“He’s horrible.”

“I agree. He seems to be doing a lot of things that irritate people.”

“He’s turned me into a political protester.”


“I took part in a march for women.”


“On the Boston Common. Did you read about all of those marches across the US and world? They happened on the Saturday after he was inaugurated.”

“Yes, I guess I did. What else have you been up to?”

“Settling into my place. It takes time to get used to it all.”

“That’s very true.”

“How are you settling into your care center?”

“As far as care places go, I guess it’s a rather nice one, but the dining room drives me crazy. All those funny old people. To me it’s all very depressing while eating. Of course, I’m a funny old person myself.”


“You beat me to the punch in calling tonight. I was going to call you. It’s our Tuesday. I’ll call you next week, okay?”

“Okay, that sounds wonderful.”

“We always have lots to talk to each other about and you given me some thoughts to think about.”

“Until next week then.”

She never ceases to surprise me with her memories and opinions and despite the heavy tone of our conversation, it ended with words of love. It’s more important than ever to spread love.



“You all are so busy and here I am sitting here in this care center feeling sorry for myself.”

“Oh, Maga.” My heart sank. “If it helps, my winter’s been really quiet so far. Sticking close to home, getting settled, getting used to it all. And besides, you’ve lived a very busy life thus far.”

She started to tell me about South Africa and the Italian Lake Country and France and New Jersey. The details were a bit hazy, but since it was her world traveling memories, I couldn’t help shake out the cobwebs.

“I am continually impressed with what you’ve seen and done.”

“Yes, but I won’t be making any more international trips.”

“But you have all those pictures.”

“Yes, I guess I do have all those pictures.”

“You can look at them and remember and relive.”

“I suppose that’s all I can do.”

And so.

We turned to more familiar topics. My recent move. Sister E’s even more recent move. The weather. Our January birthdays. My phone number. My address. My parents’ travels. My siblings’ phone numbers. My aunt and uncle’s travels. My cousin’s international travels. Family. Family. Family. My phone number.

“It’s hard to keep everything straight unless you write it in a book,” she said.

And so.

A clarity about why I write so many things down (on post-it notes, on scraps of paper, on pads of paper) unveiled itself, but mostly, a deeper understanding of why she’s always asking for my contact information settled in my bones.



“Wait one second, Abby dear. It’s the changing of the guard.”

I always try to call after that happens, but her beloved caregiver M stayed a little later today, so I eavesdropped while they said goodbye with tenderness. When Maga got back on the phone, she was all business. “What did you do for your birthday?”

“Oh, well, some friends came down to visit and we battled the snow on Saturday night. Then on Sunday, I invited some friends over and we did brunch. I learned I don’t have enough plates.”

“Oh no! What did you do?”

“Two of my friends are married, so they shared a plate and then the rest of us worked in shifts. The early arrivers ate first and then we washed the plates for the later arrivals. Next time, paper plates.”

Maga let out a peal of laughter at my hosting ineptitude.

“Did you host a lot of parties?” I asked.

“Not really. More often than not, we’d take friends out to the country club. It was easier all around.”

“True. But what about when your kids were growing up. How about then?”

“When my kids were growing up? That was a long time ago! But yes, I guess we did. For special occasions and things like that. Neighbors and friends we’d invite over. Do you have any business trips planned?”

“You know what? I don’t. After all that travel this summer/fall, I don’t have anything definite yet. I do not like that.”

“Do you take pictures?”

“With my phone.”

“Oh, so you don’t have any photo albums?”

“Nope. The last album I have is one my mom made for me.”

“Your mom is very good at that. She’s put some together for me and I have them here in this funny little place. She’s also good at postcards. I’m very fond of your mother. You can tell anyone.”

“I’ll make sure to.”

“Don’t you have a lot of winter birthdays in your family?”

“Especially in January.” I listed off my siblings’ birthdays ending with Brother G’s, whose was today.

“Oh, yes,” Maga said. “I talked to him last night. His family is doing well.”

“A stomach bug took them down, but yes, they’ve recovered and are doing quite well now.”

“He didn’t mention anything of that sort to me. I guess one doesn’t really talk about unfortunate things like that. But you and I can talk about it privately.”

I let out a peal of laughter at being able to override her manners and decorum.

Like grandmother, like granddaughter, I suppose.



“Hi Maga. It’s Abby.”

“Oh, Abby dear. I wasn’t sure you’d call since we spoke yesterday.”

“Well, today’s Tuesday. I like sticking to schedule.”

“Yes. It’s true. We can’t let a Tuesday go by without a good phone call.”


“Is today [Sister J]’s birthday?”

“It is.”

“I see here on my pad of paper that today is her birthday. And yours was on Sunday. And I forgot to call or send a card.”

“No worries. We talked yesterday. And today. I can feel the birthday love. Even if it’s [Sister J]’s big day today.”

“Your birthday was on Sunday. [Sister J]’s is today. When is [Brother G]’s?”

“A week from today, the 17th. And then [Sister E]’s is the 28th.”

“You are…?”


“And [Sister J] is…?”


“And [Brother G] is…?”


“And [Sister E] is…?”


“Oh my how time flies. It’s also sort of funny that all your birthdays happen to come at the same time, but I guess that’s the way of things.”

“It’s a big month of celebrating that’s for sure,” I said trying not to think of further about that specific ‘way of things.’

“I suppose it’s too late to call [Sister J]? They must have left for dinner by now.”

“I got off the phone with her a little bit ago. She was about to put [Mac3] to bed, so it’s just about a perfect time for you to call her. She’ll love that.”

From a Tuesday call to a birthday call, Maga’s dance card sure was full tonight.



“Yesterday was your birthday and I completely forgot to call or send a card,” Maga said. “But do you know how I remembered?”

“It’s yours and Jobo’s anniversary today,” I said.

“Our 73rd.”

“I always remember because it’s the day between my birthday and Sister J’s.”

“Why, yes, you’re right.”

“73 years is an impressive feat. Did you do any celebrating while my mom and dad were there this weekend?”

“Not really, no, because the most important person wasn’t there.”

Her voice was raw with love lost and so I did the only thing I could. “Tell me more about why you chose January to get married. It’s kind of an unusual month.”

“Jobo graduated MIT in 1941. I graduated Wellesley in 1942 so we couldn’t do any of those years. And then in December of 1942, Pearl Harbor happened and Joe decided to enlist. It was awful. We got married January 9, 1943 and he left for the Navy a couple of weeks later. He got an assignment in Alaska and I moved to California so in case he got leave, it would be easier for him to get to California than New Jersey.”

“Did you like California?”

“Oh, yes. I lived in a home with other service wives. I got a job. And then Jobo got reassigned to DC which was good because that meant I could be with him.”

And for 64 more years, they remained together. A love story of epic proportions.