Voices filtered through the receiver. “Do you have visitors?” I said.
“No. I was just saying goodbye to M,” Maga said. “You know M?”
“Oh, yes. She’s an angel. And look at you multitasking!”
“What? I didn’t catch that.”
“Even at 98, you can multi-task.” I brought my phone to my mouth and clearly stated each word.
“Oh, yes. I don’t how I got to be that old. Just a second. I have to say goodbye to M.”
“No problem.” As I waited, it occurred to me we were both speaking to each other as we wished to be spoken to. Maga was narrating her actions and I was speaking in longer sentences trying to establish a rhythm in the conversation.
“I’m back,” Maga said. “What day is today?”
“Of course. Our day.”
“Do you know what today also is?”
“Today is Tuesday, but it’s also an important day.”
“It’s your eldest child’s birthday.”
Well, there went the helium out of my (birthday) balloon. I got over the shock and tried again. “Today is my mom’s birthday.”
“IS IT? I MUST CALL HER RIGHT AWAY.”
Now there’s the proper reaction I was expecting…but I wasn’t ready to be done with our conversation. “I’m sure she’d love to hear from you, but first tell me about your day.”
“Mmmhmm,” she said. “What have you been up to?”
“Not much. Just work. Seeing friends. Mostly work.”
“So, let’s see. What else is new?”
“Not much. Mostly work. And a new roof…”
“Oh, did you get that?”
Pleased with her memory kicking into gear, I didn’t bother correcting her that we’re not quite signed with a contractor yet. “Yes, but pricey. It’s cutting into my social life.”
“What color is it?”
“Oh, yes, a nice beige color.”
“Gray!” I shouted into the phone.
“Oh, gray. Anything special been going on lately?”
I sighed. “Nope. Just work.” I’m truly not sure if she just can’t hear me or if she hopes I’ll have something more interesting to say?
“How do you get to work?”
“And you have three floors?”
“Umm, at work or at home?”
“At home!” Exasperation tinged her tone as if she couldn’t believe I couldn’t keep up.
“Yes. Three floors. How many do you have at [Care Center]?”
“Three floors also, so that makes it pleasant.”
More clanging and a soft “thank you” from Maga to her nighttime caregiver. “My caregiver is clearing my tray.”
“Did you…eat dinner in your room?”
“I didn’t feel like being surrounded by all the people.”
So I guess the three floors doesn’t make it all that pleasant…
“What’s that noise?” Maga asked me.
“My drawers. I’m rearranging them.”
“In the kitchen?”
“In my bedroom. My dresser. Too many clothes.”
Her typical response when she can’t hear me clearly. “Well, Maga, I know you said you might go for a walk tonight, so why don’t I let you go now so that before the walk you can call my mom and wish her a happy birthday?”
“It is lovely out tonight and I should call your mother. Is she going out for her birthday?”
“Tomorrow night, so right now is a perfect time for you to call.”
“I suppose it is. Well, I will talk to you next Wednesday. I wish you a good week until then.”
“It’s been lovely talking to you.”
“I hope it’s been wonderful to talk to me.”
“Of course, Maga, it always is!”
And no matter how frustrating the audio or memory issues are, it always is a treat. Especially when the sides of the conversation unexpectedly mirror each other. I guess that rhythm I was looking for was present after all.