“Hello?” came a raspy, feeble voice.

“Maga?” I asked.

“Uh…yes…is this Abby?”

“Yes, hi!! Did I wake you?”

“No. No, I was just doing a puzzle in the paper.”

“That sounds fun.”

“I suppose. What did you do today?”

“Let’s see. I worked. Oh! I went to the library! First time since March. It was very exciting.”

“I suppose it would be.”

“It’s all very interesting,” I said and proceeded to very slowly lay it out for her. “You put in a request for a book. They pull it off the shelf for you. Wrap it up. And then put it on a table with your name on it. And then I go and pick it up without having to interact with anyone to stay safe from germs.”

“Staying safe is important. When are you coming to visit me?”

“As soon as I’m able to.”

“How far are you from me?”

“It’s about a 4.5 hour plane ride.”

“Oh. That’s far.”

“It never seemed so far until they took the planes away!”

Maga chuckled weakly. “I guess you’re right. When are you coming to visit me?”

“I’m keeping a close eye on the planes. As soon as I’m allowed to visit, I promise.”

“I’ll keep watch and let’s stay in touch about visits. Did you go to work yesterday?”

“I worked from my house, yes, both yesterday and today. My office is closed until January!”

“I don’t understand anything these days.”

“You and me both, Maga.”

“What do you do for work?”

“I work with books.”


“Novels. Books. Reading. Publishing.”

She sort of mumbled, “Publishing.”

“Do you like books, Maga?” I asked.

“Oh, yes. They’re good things to have and to read.”

“Did you have a favorite book when you were younger?”

“Yes. The Heidi books. Did you read them?”

“I don’t think I have, no. I bet my mom and Aunt J have, though.”

“They were good for then when I was younger… when are you coming to visit me?”

“As soon as the planes stop being broken.”

That got a proper laugh. “That’s exactly right,” Maga said. “Well said.”

Dark humor is the only way to get through these days, it seems.



The text from Caregiver M came through: “Hi Abby. Your Maga is up now” and so I dialed straight away.

“Hi, Maga! It’s Abby.”

“Hello there. Sorry I was asleep before.”

“It’s no problem. Did you get a nice rest?”

“I did. I feel much better now. What did you do today?”

“The usual. Worked on my computer. Ate some food. Went for a walk.”

“Oh. I wish you’d come visit me.”

“I wish I could!”

“They’re working out the details. You could come down soon. But make sure to call first so you don’t come over on…false pretenses.”

I hated to break the news that while visitors to her care center were now allowed, the plane ride to get there was not. “As soon it’s safe to fly, I promise I’ll be there.”

“Where are you living?”

“In [City, State].”

“Oh, that’s right,” Maga said. “How could I forget? I wish it wasn’t so far away. We’ll have to plan another get together soon then.”

“As soon as we’re able! I promise you’ll be my first visit!”

“I will?”

“Of course.”

I just hope I can fulfill that promise in a semi-reasonable amount of time. I’m not ready to break the news to either of us if I can’t.

While my brain veered left, Maga regaled me with tales of Aunt J and Uncle P’s visit. Outdoors. Masks. Warm sunshine. It’s always fascinating hearing what details Maga remembers and which Caregiver M has to fill in. Whatever details she does or doesn’t remember, though, I was thrilled to know some visitors were able to get there safely.

And for now, I’ll have to continue on with my phone calls as it’s the safest path forward, and as Maga has said to me on more than one occasion, “thank goodness for Alexander Graham Bell.”



“Hi, Maga! It’s Abby.”

“Hello, Abby dear. You have good timing. We just got back from a walk.”

“And how was your walk?”

“It was nice. It’s calm and clear and bright.”

“That sounds quite lovely.”

“Do you have to wear a mask,” Maga asked.

“Not in my house, but outside, yes.”

“Me too.”

“And you wear it?”

“Oh, yes. Anytime I leave my room. It’s very important.”

“In fact it. We have to keep everyone, including ourselves, safe!”

“And where are you right now?” Maga asked.

“At my parents’ house.”

“How long have you been there?”

“About a month.”


“4 weeks.”

“Oh, you’ve been there a month?”

“Yup. You got it.”

“Well what have you been doing? Lots of trips?”

I chuckled. “Uh, no. Pretty much the only time I leave the house is for a morning walk. Or a bike ride on the weekend.”


“Yeah,” I agreed. “Not very exciting.”

“When are you coming here for a visit?”

“As soon as travel is allowed, I’ll be there.”

“Until then, thank you for calling. It’s lovely to hear your cheerful voice.”

“I’m happy to talk to you!”

“You’re in NJ?”


“With who?”

“My mom, dad and [Sister E].”

“Do I have your mom’s number?”


“Wait wait wait. Let me get a pen and paper.” Rustling noises ensued along with a few more “wait, waits.” “Okay, I’m ready.”

I gave her the details.

“Who’s number is this?” Maga asked.

“The house number. My mom’s house.”

“Yes, but who’s your mom?”

The conversation went like that awhile longer. I didn’t mind repeating myself or reminding her who my relatives were or what time it was here on the East Coast because Caregiver M had sent me this picture and it was great to see her face again. I focused on this instead of my answers, because it’s good to see she still never leaves the house without lipstick on even if she has to cover it up with a mask.



“Hi, Maga! It’s Abby,” I said, taking the phone from my mom’s hand as we started a steep uphill ascent on the neighborhood walk.


“Yes! Hi!”

“What are you doing?”

“Well, we’re on a walk around the neighborhood.”


“Oh, wow! There’s a huge tree down up ahead.” (Thank you, Tropical Storm Isaias.)

“What’s that?” Maga said.

“The wind knocked down some branches and one is covering nearly half the street.”

“Oh. I thought you said three.”

“Well,” I looked at my companions (my mother and father), “there are three of us on this walk. The three amigos.”

“Like companions.”

“Or a movie.”

“There’s someone here,” Maga said. I could hear Caregiver M talking and then Maga dropped the phone to her lap. After a brief rustling, Maga’s voice came back and we reached the top of the hill, only to have another hill to climb, so I maintained control of the phone.

“Like a nurse?”

“No.” And then she began to recite some words about hair salons and how the governor hadn’t yet made a decision on how they could open safely. “Want to make your voice heard? Call the [state] department of health at 303.692.2000. Let’s make some noise.”

Mom and I looked at each other. “Is that a commercial?” I asked.

“A flyer?” Mom asked.

Maga recited it all over again.

“You don’t need to go to the salon,” Mom said. “Caregiver M does your hair beautifully.”

“I haven’t had my hair done,” Maga said. (Maybe it wasn’t done it a salon, but reader, she had. That morning. We’d seen gorgeous pictorial evidence. There isn’t much Caregiver M can’t do.)

“I haven’t had my hair cut since February,” I said.

“Do you remember when you used to perm my hair?” Mom said to Maga. “I was 5.”

“No, I don’t remember that,” Maga said.

“Tell me more,” I said.

“My bangs became about 1/2″ long!” Mom could barely get up the hill, speak, and laugh at the same time. Ditto for me. Maga chuckled reluctantly. Dad was about 50 yards behind us at this point, more interested in how many tree branches fell than hair styles and salons.

Maga found the flyer in her lap and recited it all over again, which gave us time to catch our collective breath. As she started reading it for the fourth time, I chimed in word for word.

“What should I say?” Maga said.

“You could tell them you’d like the salon in your care center opened.”

“What number should I call?”

“303,” Mom and I started at the same time.

“Hold on!” Maga said. “Let me get a pen.”

We waited and we walked. Maga got the number and some advice on what to say and who she was to call. “Where is it?” she asked.

“Downtown,” Mom said.

“I’m not going to go there,” Maga said, crunching on something.

“Are you eating something?” I asked.

“Popcorn,” Maga said.

“They dropped off the flyer and some popcorn,” Caregiver M said.

Having a bucket of popcorn at this point in the conversation seemed awfully apropos.

“So the number is 303.692.2000,” Maga said. “And it’s where?”

“Downtown,” Mom repeated.

“I’m not going there!” Maga repeated.

“No, no. You’re to ask about the hair salon at [Care Center],” Mom said.

“A hair storm?” Maga said.

It seemed we’d come full circle literally, figuratively, conversationally.