“I’m not liking the life I’m leading now,” Maga said.

“Oh, dear. Why ever not?” I asked.

“I’m not feeling well and there’s only one relative close by.”

“That’s one more than I have, so I understand that loneliness.”

“I bet you do.”

In an attempt to turn the conversation towards a happier topic, I mentioned that today was Sister E’s birthday.

“IT IS!?” Maga cried in a tone that implied I’d been purposefully keeping the information from her.

I hadn’t. I wasn’t. But the conversation devolved from there. It was a lot of me repeating myself. Sample topics:

Sister E’s phone number (6x), her address (6x), the city she lives in (5x), that it’s her birthday (5x), my address (2x), my city of residence (3x), Maga’s birthday (3x), who will be there for her birthday (2x), and, of course, the weather (4x).

Considering she was feeling crudsville and is inching ever closer to 99, I’m happy to talk (ad nauseam) about any topics, even if/when limited in scope.

However, I will admit it wasn’t a hardship to say goodbye when the nurse dropped by with Maga’s nighttime medicines…



“Life isn’t terribly interesting right now,” Maga said. “But I’m trying to make good.”


“How’s your weather?”

“Cold. And a little snowy. But mostly, cold.”

“Oh, that’s not too good.”

“It is winter. Gotta get through that to get to spring.”

“You have a friend who’s thinking of you?”

“Me?” I said.

“Yes, you have a friend.”

“Well, yes, but I was talking about the weather.”


Recognizing it was going to be one of those nights, I tried to stick to questions with immediately accessible answers. “Did you have some visitors today?”


“Really? Not even my parents?”

“Oh, yes. C and A [read: me] came over earlier,” Maga said.

“What about my dad?”

“No. He didn’t come.”

“What about Aunt J?”

“Yes, she was here too. Two girls.”

“Three ladies counting you.”

“Yes, yes, I’m good.”

*gets whiplash* “I’m glad to hear that, Maga.”

“Do you have any animals,” Maga asked.




“But you have pets.”


“Well who am I thinking of?”

“Whoever it is, it’s not me.”

“I guess not.”

“Oh, Abby, I am so confused!”

“That’s okay. You’re 98. Your brain has a lot of other information in it.”

“I guess that’s right. Do you… Have you… Who… What am I trying to say?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know.”

“You don’t know and I don’t know so that makes two of us.”

And the two of us continued our broken conversation for awhile longer until I sensed it was causing her more distress than comfort.

“Maga, I’m going to let you go now. Just relax and watch some TV.”

“When are you coming to visit me?”

“In March.”


“For your birthday.”

“You are?!”

“Of course. Like I do every year.”

“Oh, we’ll have to have a party.”

“Of course! 99 is a big deal.”

“However did I get that old?”

“By living 98 years before it.”

“I guess that’s right,” Maga said.

And on that semi-coherent, semi-happy note, I bid her adieu because one + one on the phone tonight did not equal two happy ladies. She didn’t know and I didn’t know and these calls are not meant to cause stress. Sometimes you have to recognize when the math’s not adding up, the language might not be either.



“I’m eating dinner in my room,” Maga said.

“I just finished dinner myself. I tried something new tonight.”

“What’s that?”

“There’s this service that sends you all the ingredients for a recipe and then you have to cook it. So I tried that tonight, which took me a lot longer than normal, which is why I finished dinner so late tonight.”

“Oh, so you have to prep the meal.”


“How many meals did you get?”

“This week, I got 3, but it makes so much food, I’m going to go down to just 2 meals.”

“That should be enough to take care of things.”

“Yes, that’s what I’m thinking. And what did you have for dinner?”

“Some salmon, rice, and salad.”

“Wow. That sounds like a great meal. I love to hear you’re eating so well.”

“Well, I’m only eating a portion of each.”

“That’s okay. As long as you’re eating.”

“Yes. Did you like your meal?”

“It actually was quite good. Except now I have a sink full of dishes to tackle.”

“Oh, the dishes. That’s something we all have to do.”

True enough, Maga. True enough. But in an effort to lighten up the conversation… “Maga, guess what?! I bought my plane tickets to see you for your birthday.”

“That’s in March.”

“Yes! But it’s a popular time, so flights are filling up already.”

“99 is pretty elderly.”

“I think it’s pretty amazing.”

I detailed (again and again) the various people I know who are also coming to celebrate her.

“It’s a big event in my life.”

“It’s a big event in all our lives. 99 is nothing to sneeze at!”

She seemed overwhelmed by the number of relatives traveling to see her, but with months to prepare, I think she’ll be ready.

“Thank you for calling me and updating me on all this information,” Maga said.

“It’s coming together just this week. It’s all so exciting!”

For the amount of time she asks to see me and others, she wasn’t as excited to hear we would be descending on her as I thought she’d be. Maybe her belly was too full of salmon? Maybe she likes being 98 and doesn’t want to turn 99?

Either way, getting older + doing dishes. It’s something we all have to do.



“How’s it up there in Mumford,” Maga said.

“Not too bad.”

“Oh, excuse me. Medford, not Mumford.”

“Well, Mumford lives in Medford, so it’s an understandable mistake.”

Maga chuckled. “I guess so. What else have you been doing?”

“I’m making granola.”

“You’re what?”

“Granola. You mix it with yogurt.”

“Like cereal?”

“Yes. Close enough.”

“How do you make it?”

“I’m following a recipe from a cookbook.”

“Oh. How nice. What’s the cookbook called.”

“The Dude Diet.”

“The what?”

“Dude. Diet.”

“With a G?”



“D. Like dude. Guy. Oh, a dude ranch.”

“Oh, okay. Dude. Do you like to cook?”

“No. Not exactly.”

“Do you have many people over?”

“No. Not exactly.”


“I’m making this because I’m not really a morning person and it’ll help me save time in the mornings.”

“You’re getting prepared now so you can move faster in the morning.”


“Do you have any upcoming trips planned?”

“New York in February and then visiting you in March.”

“Did you know my birthday is in March?”

“Did you know that’s why I’ll be visiting you?”

“I did not.”

“It is indeed.”

Silence crept over the conversation as I was busy maneuvering my granola in/out of the oven. “I don’t know what we have in common tonight,” Maga said.

“Umm, well, we…”

“I’ve run out of ideas,” Maga said in a forthright and yet backhanded way of admonishing me for not paying attention.

“I guess my brain is tired,” I said. “It’s been hectic at work with a new employee.”

“What’s she like?”

“She’s hardworking and nice. I think she’ll be a good fit.”

“There are people who are good fits and those who aren’t.”

“True. What about you and Jobo? Were you a good fit?”

“Yes, I think we were! Don’t you think?”

“Obviously yes.”

“We got along pretty well together. Better than the other way.”

What was going the other way was my granola. It had cooled the sufficient amount of time, but I’d used aluminum foil instead of parchment paper, and apparently, that was a bad substitution. The granola wasn’t “chunking up” like the recipe claimed and was instead raining down around me and onto the floor in teeny tiny individual pieces. Come to think of it, I used rolled oats instead of steel cut ones. Perhaps that was the bigger travesty?

Me and my kitchen are not, as Maga would say, a good fit. Or maybe she’d say me and my kitchen have nothing in common.



This text (which does in fact start with a string of potatoes, beets, and onions but which were cut off so [Sister J]’s transcription was fully visible) arrived today. A Monday. A rather Monday-ish Monday.

And with its arrival, it ignited a reverse chain of events where someone else was doing the transcribing of a relative’s thought process and all I had to do was sit back and let the sweetness wash over me.

For the record, dear sweet 4yo H, I like shredded coconut on cakes but don’t know if I like it raw. Never had it. Yes, I love apples! Especially when paired with peanut butter or cheddar cheese. Yes, donuts are good, though I’d actually prefer a bagel. And, yes, double triple YES I am so happy you know my birthday is soon!!!

(though I suspect she’s aware of it due to its crazy closeness to her mother’s birthday) (which I am totally fine with) (the birthday dates + it being the reason she knows my birthday)

(either way any way all the way I was so touched by this, it has me wondering if I should show Maga some of the times I’ve transcribed her words?) (probably a bad idea) (maybe not if I printed some out and mailed them to her?) (they’re short enough it wouldn’t be any more taxing on her brain than watching a tv commercial with closed captioning on)

I’m probably overthinking this. So. I’m just going to go back and enjoy the sweet simplicity of H’s train of thought and allow this Monday to close out all covered with its syrupy sweetness.