“You sound chipper,” I said.

“I do?”


“I’m glad you told me,” Maga said, as if she couldn’t feel the upbeat attitude she was projecting. (I guess at 98yo your feelings dull a bit?) “I miss you all.” (Guess her feelings are back in working mode.)

“I miss you too.”

“You do?”

“Of course.”

“Good.” (Yup, her feelings are definitely back in working order.) “Are you going somewhere this weekend?”


“Oh, I thought you were.”

“Nope… Oh. I know what you’re thinking of. [Aunt J] is traveling to see my mom. They’re going to the US Open like always.”

“The tennis tournament?”

“The very one.”

“That was my game!”

“I know! Did you ever play doubles?”


“With other females only or did you play with co-ed partners?”

“Mixed doubles.”

“Oh, yes. That’s it! That’s what I meant.”

“Yes, I did play.”

“Who were your partners?”

“Jobo. Sons. Your dad.”

“My dad?”

“[N] is your dad…?”


“I think he played too.”

“You had all sorts of tennis players in your life. I love it! I think [Cousin P] was the most accomplished though. He played in college.”

“Yes. He was quite good. Do you play?”

“A little bit.”

“You should play a little bit more. Get good at it. It’s good exercise.”

“Indeed it is. For now, I just go for runs and I walk a lot.”

“I walk a lot too.”

I think she means her caregivers take her for a lot of walks, but who am I to mess with her current reality? I’m happy to point out when she’s chipper, but I’m not going to point out any physical limitations. After all, she was quite a tennis player and I’m happy she was still able to correct me on the details of the sport. Time together with her is time together whether or not I’m on the losing end of the conversation.



“It’s hard to lose valuable things,” Maga said, “like teeth.”

“And a roof.”

“A what?”

“Never mind. I was agreeing with you. Teeth are a tough thing to lose. I’m sorry to hear about your toothache.”

“I know. It’s the pits.”

“I hope the dentist will be able to help manage the pain.”

“Me too. I hope he doesn’t have to pull it.”

“Eek. Me too!”

“Do you have any upcoming trips planned?”

“I was just in Maine this past weekend.”

“Who were you visiting?”

“[Sister J].”


“[Sister J]’s in-laws have a house up there,” I clarified.

“Oh, that’s right. I think I remember hearing that. So you were all up there together?”

“We were. Mom and Dad and [Sister J] and her family and her in-laws. Actually, do you remember talking to us on Saturday night?”

*silence* “Oh, I guess I do. When you all called me.”


“How old did you say you were?” Maga asked.

“Umm, I didn’t…”

“Well how old are you?’






“No, you don’t meant it.”

“Okay, you’re right. I’m 27.”

*silence* “Oh, come on. I know how long you’ve been on this good earth. You have a few years accumulated.”

Just when you think you’ve pulled one over on her, her memory snaps back and she’s able to remind you you’ve got some miles under your shoes. But there are still so many miles to go to reach the standard she’s setting at 98! She sure knows how to set that bar high.



“And how are you, Maga?” I asked.

“I’m not going to win any battles, but I’m still here so that’s something.”

“I’ll say!”

“Have you had any visitors lately?”



“Truly. You get more than me!”

“You have an extra bedroom, right?”


“So if someone wanted to visit and stay the night, they could?”

“Yes. Do you want to?”

Peals of laughter spilled out from the phone. “Well, maybe not just yet.”

I liked how she phrased that, as if the time for her to be able to come visit wasn’t right now, but it wasn’t far away either.

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

“I’ll be in Maine this weekend with [Sister J] and [B-I-L-T].”

“Oh, I love Maine. I used to go up there all the time. A friend of my mother’s had a really lovely house up there with tennis courts and everything.”

“Wow! That sounds amazing.”

“It really was. It was there I played tennis with…” She trailed off purposefully, as if I was supposed to know who she played tennis with. (Honestly? I was too busy trying to spell her mother’s friend’s name so I could re-write it here.) (I failed.)

“Who’d you play tennis with?”

“A.J. Cronin.”

The pride in her voice made me feel guilty for asking, “Who’s that?”

“He wrote books. He loved tennis. I’m not sure how he knew Auntie [Name-I-Didn’t-Quite-Catch], but we played quite a bit of tennis together. I wonder if he’s still alive?”

“Was he your age?”

“No, he was a bit older.”

“Did you ever read any of his books?”

“Oh, yes. Many of them.”

“I’ll have to look him up.”

“You should. His books are quite enjoyable.”

And now I’m in a book club with my 98yo grandmother.

“Do you have any pets?” Maga asked.

“Nope. Not as an adult.”

“You’ve never had any pets??”

“Not really, no. What about you?”

“Oh, yes, we had pets.”

“I mean what about when you were a kid?”

“Oh, no. My mother’s mother didn’t like animals, and, we lived with her.”


“You don’t like animals?” Maga’s voice was choked with incredulity. Or was it familiarity?

“Umm, not really no. But apparently it’s genetic!”

“Guess so. She didn’t like animals so we didn’t have any. We lived with her.”

“Her house her rules, huh?”

“Yep. She owned the house so she made the rules.”

“Seems fair.”

It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself / your family history from just a bit of small talk.




“Hi, Maga. It’s Abby.”


“Hi, Maga. It’s Abby.”

“Hello? Hello?”


I pulled the headphones out and switched it to speaker phone and basically screamed, “Can you hear me now?”

“Oh, yes. Hi, Abby dear.”

“Sorry about that, I dropped my phone earlier and it’s acting up now.”

“You dropped it? Were you at home?”

“Walking to work.”

She paused…”Is it a portable phone?”

“Yes. My mobile phone.”

“What type of phone is it.”

“An iphone.”

“Maybe you should take it to a place that fixes iphones.”

“I could do that, but it’s quite old, so it may be on its last legs.”

I never expected to get technological advice from my 98yo grandmother, but, here we are…

“Did you say you got a new car?” Maga asked.

“Nope. Just a new roof.”

“Oh, I wonder who did?”

“Not sure, but it wasn’t me. I have to get a new roof, so I definitely can’t afford a car too.”

“Why do you need a new roof?”

“The current one is leaking.”

“Have you talked to someone about fixing it?”


“Will it be expensive?”


“Oh dear.”

“Sorry, this has put me in a rather bad mood.”

“That’s understandable.” And then she sweetly attempted to carry the conversation, but when one is at her “advanced age and can’t travel much” the conversation is usually held aloft by me, but having to scream into my phone’s speaker so she could accurately hear me left me feeling like I was yelling at her, which I most definitely wasn’t.

“How are the boys doing?”

“Which boys?”

“Your brothers. [Uncle T] and [Uncle D].”

“They’re not my brothers. They’re my uncles.”

Maga’s confusion over her children, my misbehaving phone, and my broken roof put me over the edge. I quickly/patiently pointed out who her children were vs who my parents were and, I’m sorry to admit, cheered when her caregiver suggested they go sit outside on the balcony.

Maybe the fresh air would do us both good.