Two ladies. Talking. Chatting. Sharing. Caring. Speaking the same language (English), and yet not (generational, occupational, geographical).

“Good for you. You’re gaining a bit of experience,” Maga said. Her words skimmed over the previous 11+ years I’ve spent at my current job, 15+ in the industry, glossing over the bumps and bruises and learning curves.

“Did you ever have a formal job?” I asked. It was a clumsy attempt to convey I know being a mother and housewife is the hardest job because my question only used the words I (a non-mother/housewife) have in my professional arsenal.

“Bringing up four children was quite something to keep you busy,” she said, matter-of-factly.

It was. It is. It always will be.

She changed the subject. Neutral ground. Intentional? Unintentional? Bored? Unstimulated? Curious? “Have you gone to the index and seen how many dozens of stations there are?” She meant the TV, but all the same, she could have meant my publishing job.

Is this what it means to be family? To be speaking the same language even when you’re talking about different things and have separate agendas and varying vocabularies…?



Her mind was more muddled than usual, and so I found myself stuck in a circular conversation while bus after bus failed to show up. 5 minutes became 25. And I kept repeating how it had been 80 degrees today and how I’d been at a book event, not the bar I’m usually at on Tuesdays, and no it wasn’t for work I just really like books and how people use the internet for job searching (“The internet is a big thing nowadays.”) and yes, all the trees are in bloom, and yes, everyone in the family is a-okay.

30 minutes later, when we weren’t irritated with each other, it felt like we were going through the motions. Her questions were routine, as were my answers.

Maybe it was that I was out in public and my usually soft voice was pitched so that the people walking by wouldn’t overhear my repetitions (“September. No, not December. Sep-tem-ber. The 9th month of the year”) or maybe it was that the traffic sounds punctuated my answers more than my voice or maybe my frustration with the public transit system bled through my tone, but I sounded less cheerful than usual. Maybe that’s why she returned to the same three topics (weather, family, my physical location) over and over? Because despite the routine of our Tuesday night chats, those were the only familiar things tonight.

Going on 35 minutes now, she claimed to enjoy our chat but the only details she could remember were ones from long ago (softball and trivia and my siblings). She couldn’t remember I’d traveled out for her birthday a few months ago and played the “when am I going to see you again” guilt trip. I’d love to see you again soon, too, Maga! But will you even remember I’ve been there? And after a few more “it was 80 degrees today” and “I’m not at home yet, I’m trying to get there,” but no buses, my patience was wearing thin.

Maga: It’s the changing of the guard here. My day caregiver leaves at 6 and my night one comes at 6. So I have company almost all the time.

Me: It’s more than I have.

Maga: But you’re not 97.

Me: True.

Maga: That makes all the difference.

It might in some scenarios, but here on this sidewalk of the neverending-wait-for-the-bus-dear-god-why-won’t-it-come-should-I-call-a-Lyft-but-my-bus-pass-is-already-paid-for, the comment felt like a personal dig on my lonely lifestyle. And then I got irritated with myself because it was gorgeous out, I had nowhere specific to be, and I had company in the form of Maga. Even if the conversation was long and meandering and sometimes fruitless, I had the privilege to be irritated by it. We’ve talked long enough and often enough to know each other in the way that can sometimes feel like a pebble in your shoe and isn’t that what I was searching for when I started these calls all those years ago?

The bus showed up (two canceled Lyfts later) (thank you for the false alarms, #77 bus) and as I was deposited at my stop an hour and 45 minutes after my trek home started, I walked home under violet skies with a heart now filled with more love than crankiness.



“Abby, dear, hi!”

“Hi, Maga! How are you?”

“What day is today?”



“It’s me. Abby. What day do you think it is?”

“Oh.” Pause. “It’s Tuesday!”

“Good girl.”

And after a brief assist, Maga caught on fast and, in fact, told me a thing or two.

“Did you hear about [Bro-in-law-] T’s plane ride home?” she said.

“I heard a few vague details, but I’m waiting on a call back from them with more.”

And she launched into the story of how a woman got sick on the plane, the flight attendants called for medical personnel, and B-I-L-T was the only doctor aboard, and after assessing the situation, had the plane re-route to the nearest airport so the passenger could get immediate medical attention!!

Before I could digest all that information, she’d moved on. “Did you know your parents are going to San Diego next?” she said.

“I heard a few vague details, but I’m waiting on a call back from them with more.”

And she launched into the tale of my cousin’s high school graduation and all the attendees he’ll have celebrating him.

“Any other family news?” Maga asked.

“I don’t know. You tell me,” I said.

She paused for a minute and then launched into the next story. “Did you know your mom and I visited [nephew L] when he was a baby?”

“In Seattle?”


“In Seattle?” I repeated.

“Yes. How old are those kids again?”

“16. 13. 10.”

“So it must have been 10 years ago your mom and I went. How old was I then?”

“You would have been 87. SO YOUNG! Spring chicken!”

“Oh dear. How could I go tripping at that age?”

“How could you not?!?”

The conversation had a slow start, but once it gained momentum, I couldn’t slow her down! I just held onto the information highway.



Some days go better than others. Some nights go exactly according to plan.

“How are you feeling?” I ask.

“It’s close to bedtime here,” Maga says rather sternly. “But even closer there. What time is it there?”

“Close to 11. Yes, it is rather late here,” I say thinking of the friends I left chatting on the sidewalk so I could get home in time for this phone call.

Some days end up with all items checked off your to do list. Some nights go on forever and all you can do is hang on.

“Did you go to your bar?” Maga asks.

“We did, though that wasn’t the original plan. We were supposed to have a softball game tonight, but the weather didn’t cooperate.”

“Oh, a rain out. So you went to the bar instead.”

“You got it.”

Sometimes your grandmother picks up what you’re putting down.  And sometimes she puts you on hold while she discusses her nighttime pill plan with the caregiver.

“So I’ll just buzz you then,” Maga says to the nurse.

“At 2am?” I clarify.

“When you’re my age, sleeping is hard.”

“So you set an alarm for 2am?”

“No. I just wake up and then I buzz for them.”

“Oh. Hmm. Well, when you add up all the sleep you’ve gotten over the years, maybe you’ve already hit your quota. It’s okay not to sleep through the night.”

Sometimes your grandmother doesn’t want to hear anything other than her own opinion.