“Hi, Maga. It’s Abby.”


“It’s Abby!”

“Hello, who is it please?”


“Hi, Abby.”

“What are you doing?”

“I’m eating my breakfast. Oh, why did I say that? I’m eating… dinner.”

“What are you having?”

“Let’s see. I had some soup. A sandwich that was ham, cheese, and lettuce, so that was good and tasty.”

“Did you have dessert?”

“Let’s see here. Could you open that please?” (That second bit was directed at her caregiver.) “Oh! Cake!” The sheer delight in her voice was infectious.

“That sounds lovely!!” It was easy for me to mirror said delight.

“How’s the weather here?”

“Oh, sure, yes, that.”

“I’m sitting at the desk eating my dinner and looking out the window. The sky is so blue and the sun is pouring down as best it can.”

“That sounds perfect.”

“It’s raining there?”

“Yesterday, yes. Sideways rain! So just having clouds today was a relief.”

“What are you doing?” Maga asked.

“Not much.”


“I’m teaching myself how to knit.”

“What’s that?”

“To knit!”




“With yarn!”


“To crochet!”


“With needles!”


I reached the end of my thesaurus.  “It’s not important, Maga. I’m just making conversation.”

“Okay. I think I’d like to talk to you tomorrow.”

Well there’s a… I don’t even know what to call it. It’s not an irish goodbye if she’s practically hanging up on me. A blunt goodbye? An aggressive suggestion? “Uh, okay. What’s a good time for me to call?”

“Right about this time is fine.”

“Are you sure? The last few times it’s seemed to conflict with you eating dinner.”

“Tomorrow. Right about this time.”

“Are you sure?”

“What time is good for you?”

“Anytime is good really because I can’t go anywhere. I can call you in the afternoon or…?”

“About this time right now, but tomorrow.”

“Okay, Maga. I’ll call you then.”

Well, we’ll just have to wait and see what tomorrow brings. Hopefully sunshine and good hearing and more cake.



“Hi, Maga! How are you?”

“Well, I’ve been sort of wobbling around. I can’t get inside and I can’t go outside.”


“The weather’s been good, so I don’t understand why we can’t go outside.”

“There are germs everywhere out there!”

“Oh, I guess you’re right.”

“Just trying to keep you safe. I’m doing the same thing here.”

“And where is that?”


“Oh, yes. You live in [Town].”

“That’s right!”

“Do you do similar work…” she trailed off. “What is it I want to say?”

I held my silence so she could sort herself out.

“Are you still there?” Maga said.

“Yes. I’m just waiting to see if you find the words.”

“Oh. I don’t know. I don’t have it, but I’ll try.”

In order to help her along, I asked about her dinner, which was on the table next to her. I asked about the paper, which was within reach. She found those words like puzzle pieces. I decided to press my luck.

“Did your mother ever talk about the 1918 flu?”

“I can’t keep track of it.”

“But you were born in 1921, so 1918 was just a few years before that, so she lived through it. She never mentioned it?”

“I wish I had some more news for you, but I really don’t.”

Neither of us had any news and only one of us had memories within grasp, so we settled on a brief, bright conversation commiserating about the lack of anything to do. 2,000 miles + a lifetime apart, and yet, there we were, just two ladies stuck inside.



Call #1

“Hi, Maga. It’s Abby.”

“Hello, who is it please?”

“It’s Abby!”

Maga’s once again crunching away on her dinner, as the covid19 protocol of eating not in the cafeteria but in one’s room has pushed her dinnertime into our usual chat time. I also assumed her “greeting” means she’s having trouble hearing, so I try again.

“What do you have for dinner?” I ask, enunciating each syllable.

“I’m eating my lunch now, looking out the window.”

“Lunch? Or dinner?”

*crunch crunch crunch*

Her caregiver calls out, “Virginia, you’re eating dinner.”


We all stare down the silence. Maga must realize she has the phone in her hand. “Hello? Who is it please?”

“Maga, it’s Abby.”



“Why don’t you call me back?”

“Okay, yes, I will.”

“Okay good. I’ll wait to hear from you.”

Call #2

“Hi, Maga! It’s Abby!” I start off at a decibel usually reserved for when one is in a crowded bar + live music is playing.

“Where are you right now?” Maga says.

Okay, okay, good. We’re back on track, I think. “I’m in my apartment,” I say.

“You’re coming to see me?”

“NO! I can’t leave my apartment much less the state.”

“It’s cold today?”

“It was actually gorgeous out!”

“That sounds cold.”




“What day is it today?”

“Tuesday, of course!”

“Do you usually call on Tuesdays?”

“Yes.” (I lost a little of my luster.) “So what was for dinner?”

“What did I have for dinner?” (This was directed at her caregiver, who originally called answers from far away (as they try to give her her privacy while on phone calls), but whose answers got closer and closer.)

“You had a sandwich, some potato chips, a salad, and a peanut butter cookie.”

“I had a sandwich and some chips and a what?”

“A peanut butter cookie,” repeated her caregiver.

“Peanut butter what?”

“A cookie!” Her caregiver said at the same time I tried, “Dessert!”

The call didn’t get much better or continue much longer from there. I tried headphones, speaker phone, the normal phone held up to my ear. Maga couldn’t hear. I couldn’t yell any louder or close any more of my windows to shield my neighbors from my ever increasing volume. Maga mentioned my cheery voice, but I assumed she was working off the memory of it because most of her answers were perfunctory and what she thought I said vs. what I actually said.

But then again, I guess I too was working off the memory of prior Tuesday night calls. Sometimes that’s enough to get us through another week.



“Oh, hello, Abby, dear,” Maga said. “How are you?”

“I’m good. How are you feeling?”

“I just found out I lost a dear friend, so I’m not too perky.”

“Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear this.”

“Thank you.”

“Who was it?”

“Miriam Shauble. Does that name sound familiar?”

“Vaguely, barely, I guess. How did you know her?”

“Oh, you know.” She paused, struggling for words. “High school and that sort of thing.”

“I’m so so sorry about this.”

“She was a helpful, thoughtful lady.”

“She sounds lovely.”

“She really was. I just found this information out right before you called. It’s a lot to take in.”

I held my tongue and let her have a moment to do so.

“We do the best we can,” Maga said. “What did you do today?”

I ran down the extensive list of things I did / are available for me to do: work, walk, eat, rinse, repeat.

“Have you had dinner yet?” I asked.

“I’m having it now,” she said.

“What’s on the dinner menu?”

“Well,” she paused as if trying to remember what she had instead of looking down at her plate… “A sandwich.”

“The cafeteria is closed, right?”

“No, no. It’s open. That’s how I’m having a meal right now.”

I chuckled. “Yes, of course the kitchen is still open, but you’re not allowed to go into the cafeteria to eat with other people, correct?”

“No. It’s terrible. I haven’t left my room today.”

“I know it is, but they’re just trying to keep you safe. It’s clean and germ free in your room.”

“I can’t wait until this is all over.” *Loud crunching noises* “Can you hear that?”

“I sure can. You’re eating potato chips, aren’t you?”

“How ever did you know that?”

“They pair nicely with a sandwich.”

“Yes, they do.”

With that simple, effective statement she ended the call to focus on her simple, effective dinner that was unfortunately served with a side dish of sadness.