I left Niece M a happy birthday voicemail and as I was doing so, Maga called. She hung up before I finished sending my birthday wishes, and so, left me a message. As I was listening to that, Niece M returned my call. We finished and I dialed Maga.

“Abby, hi!” Maga said. “We didn’t talk last week, so I thought I’d give you a call.”

“We talked! Granted it was a Monday instead of a Tuesday.”

“Oh. Well. How’s your weather?”

“Amazing this weekend. Terrible today. And you? How’s your weather? How are you feeling?”

“Not good.”

“Oh no! Why not?”

“I’m terribly lonely. No one lives nearby except Aunt J.”

“Aren’t my parents there now?”

“Yes, but they’re buzzing around with Aunt J and Uncle P and I’m not so mobile at my age.”

Ah ha, I thought. Maga has FOMO. I see now where my mom and her siblings get it! And then I pondered what they might be doing sans Maga. And then I pondered harder about how to explain they were most likely dismantling Maga’s house because living a long and full life isn’t cheap and Maga’s organs (aside from her knees, which aren’t really organs) are all in tip-top shape for a 98-year-old and so, the funds have to come from somewhere… Or, maybe they’d been there all day with her and her 98-year-old memory isn’t as strong as her heart and lungs, etc. And then I realized I’d gone down a long, quiet trail of thoughts.

“How’s the weather there, Maga?”

“No snow.”

“Brilliant!” Before she could ask me about my weather again, I continued, “Did you know it’s Niece M’s birthday today?”

“Today! Today?”


“Oh. Oh! I’d better give her a call.” Which necessitated 5 minutes of me repeating Niece M’s phone number for Maga and 15 minutes explaining that Niece M did have time to talk if Maga wanted to hang up with me and call now and then 30 seconds of me texting M to alert her of the impending call…

And, weirdly, the conversation ended the way it started. In a three way loop between generations. A birthday girl and a great-granddaughter. An aunt and a granddaughter. A grandmother and a great-grandmother. For, you know, anyone keeping score.



“I just got back from dinner and I’m munching on a cookie,” Maga said.

“What flavor?”

“Chocolate chip.”

“The best flavor.”

“Oh dear.”

“What? What’s wrong, Maga?”

She mumbled something about votes. I could hear the TV… “Are you watching politics?” I asked.

“Yes. Bernie Sanders. Do you know him?”

“I know of him, yes, but I don’t know him personally.”

“Oh dear.”

“What’s up?” My response was, admittedly, less spooked.

“What am I going to take to help me sleep tonight?”

“What do you usually take?”

“Well,” she paused, “a couple of things.”

“Hmm, well, the good thing is that it’s still early, so you’ve got some time to watch tv and relax and get sleepy.”

“What do you do when you can’t sleep?”

“I read. Count my blessings.”


“Well, it’s better than counting sheep. Another thing you could try is to count backwards from 10,000.”

“What?!” Maga fairly screeched it. “Did you say 10,000?”

“I did and you should try it.”



“How long does that take you?”

“Oh, I don’t get very far! That’s kind of the point, I think. It’s a fairly easy task, so it won’t keep you awake in the attempt, but it’s something to keep your mind occupied instead of worries stacked up from the day.”

Maga continued munching on her cookie. I wished I was doing the same. I didn’t have anything exciting to report and she couldn’t seem to gather her thoughts or keep her attention on what I was saying and yet she didn’t want to end the conversation and yet it was difficult for me to parse through her scrambled thoughts.

The push and pull of a generationally and geographically long distance relationship.




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

I detailed some of my upcoming trips (over and over).

“It’s quite a time for travel,” Maga said. “People move around a lot and you go see each other hither and yon.”

It took a minute to contain my laughter, but once I did, I focused the conversation on my upcoming family related trip because she’d know all the names and faces and I hoped she’d be able to grasp the conversation more easily than she had been.

“I’ll be staying with [Sister J] and will able to see [Brother G] and his family, as they’ll be on the East Coast looking at colleges for [Niece M].”

“It’s a good idea to look the scene over before deciding.”

“You got it, Maga!” I’d gotten her attention and figured I’d push it. “How did you decide to go to Wellesley?”

“Well, I knew I wanted to go to a women’s college, so I looked around at some of those. I don’t know…” She trailed off. I waited for her to pick up the thread. “You know I don’t know how I decided on it, but I’m so glad I did. It’s so beautiful. Have you ever been there?”

“I have, actually, and I agree with you. It’s a lovely campus.”

“There’s a lake there in the middle of everything. It’s so attractive and adds a lot of the campus.”

“It does. My college had a lake at one of the entrances and it was such a welcoming site.”

“What year did you graduate?”

“1999. Woah, that was…20 years ago?  What? No, no, no, wait. That was high school. 2003. That’s when I graduated.”

“That’s still quite a long time ago.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Time sure does fly. It does not sit still for long.”

As a 98yo, I suspect she knows a thing or two about time and its passage.



“How are you?” I asked.

“Feeling lonely,” Maga said. “My relatives all live so far away.”

“But, here I am!”

“Yes. Thank goodness for the telephone. Have you seen any family lately?”

“Well, I’m here with my mom and dad.”

“You are? Why’s that?”

I went on to explain about the work conference that brought me to my parents’ town.

“So, you’re going to seminars to catch up on the very latest,” she said.

“Maga! Well done!” I exclaimed. Her zippy summary of my work trip blew me away, especially since the vast majority of my explanation involved details about computer software, something she doesn’t often understand.

“It must be nice to get away. Change the scene.”

“You have no idea.”

“You’re a good worker,” she said, apropos of nothing we were talking about. “No doubt about that. You’ve always been a dependable person. I like that in my relatives.”

Relatives. Bosses. I guess my resume’s the same for both. At least, it is this week with this work trip intersecting with a visit to family. But no matter what, here’s dependable me making my Tuesday night call to my best Tuesday night lady.