Yesterday was what we’ve taken to calling “a sleepy day,” so my usual call with Maga wasn’t able to happen. In the midst of unpacking and chatting with Sister J, I missed the text from Caregiver M letting me know “[my] Maga was up,” but when I saw it 12 minutes later, I scrambled to switch phone partners. A little do si do and a promise to let Sister J know when I was done so she could fill Maga’s dance card next.

The phone rang and rang. Another text from CM appeared: “Hi. She is talking to your mom.” Upon which I immediately texted my mom asking her to let me know when she was done, so I didn’t miss another chance to chat.

Imagine my surprise when my phone rang a minute later with Maga’s number lighting up my phone.

“Hello?” I said.

“Hi, Abby, dear,” Maga said.

“You sound awake and alert!”

“I try to be.”

Munching noises ensued. “Dinner,” Maga said.

“That’s great,” I said. “You having an appetite.”

More munching noises.

“She’s very focused on eating,” CM said.

“Appears so!”

The munching slowed, so I tried some questions. “Did you have snow or sunshine today?”

“No,” Maga said.

“Tomorrow’s New Year’s Eve. Will you stay up until midnight?”


“Did you ever host a NYE party at your house?”


I repeated myself changing a few words (NYE –> holiday, party –> neighbors) to help lower my tone so she could hear me.


“[Caregiver M??]” Maga cried.

CM’s voice crept closer. She too attempted to get my point across, but to no avail.

“I don’t know what’s what,” Maga said.

“That’s okay. I often don’t either. But listen, I’m going to let you go and once we hang up, [Sister J] is going to call you. That way you won’t be alone for dinner. Is that okay?”


CM explained the situation. I explained the situation again. I stayed on the line because she didn’t seem convinced of anything and I didn’t like ending the call on that note.

“Hello?” Maga said.

“I’m still here.”


She continued her laser focus on her turkey sandwich. I attempted a joke about potato chips. It fell flat.

After 5 weeks of 24/7 company, I was now 100% isolated, so I was more than content to continue the “conversation” whether she was talking, whether she understood, or whether she was quiet, but her alert and awake hours are precious and I was conscious of Sister J wanting to chat…I tried again to explain that I was going to hang up, but that Sister J would call next, so she’d have company.

“Whatever you want,” Maga said.

I smiled (sadly) at her sharp, short tone. Her memory was flickering in and out and the only thing that continued to make sense was the turkey sandwich. I’m just glad I got to share some space with it, and her.

“I love you, Maga,” I said.

“I love you too.”



“Hi, Maga! It’s Abby.”

“Hello. How are you?”

“I’m doing well and yourself?”

“Not too bad. What’d you do today?”

I launched into my daily activities, “I went for two walks and then I cooked a little and then I wrapped some Christmas presents, which got me in the Christmas mood.”


“Do you have any Christmas decorations up?”

“I have a little tree by my TV.”

“Is it real or fake?”


Caregiver M texted me a photo of the gold, tinsel branches and red and silver ornaments.

“Oh, Maga! It’s so festive. It’s great!”

“Thank you. I have another one too.”

“Two trees??”

Caregiver M called out that she’d send over a picture shortly, so in the meantime, I thought about the best way to explain to Maga about the little tree I have in my apartment. “It’s a little fake tree and the branches are fiber optic, so they light up in these pretty colors. You know those things they sell to kids at the circus or hockey games?”

“Yes, I do.”

The certainty in her tone made a believer out of me, but then Caregiver M’s text chimed through and wouldn’t you know it? Maga’s second tree is a fiber optic one too! Hers has white lights where mine has colors, but our Christmas decorations are more similar than not. It was an unexpected connection.

“Please tell [Caregiver M] thank you for all these photos. They’re so wonderful! Especially the one she sent my mom of you in your Christmas sweater yesterday.”

“She didn’t show it to me.”

“Maga! You were in it! You know what you were wearing.”

“I wonder who took the photo?”

“[Caregiver M] did,” I said as the same time Caregiver M called out, “I did.”

“Oh, here I am. Red and green and all that. Oh dear.”

“Why’d you say ‘oh dear’?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I just felt like oh dear. What time is it there?”

“6:30 here, so it’s 4:30 your time.”

“Nearly dinner time.”

“Indeed it is.”

“I don’t have much of an appetite,” Maga said.

“Well then, you know what that means?”


“You’ll have to eat dessert first. That way you’ll fill up on the good stuff.”

“I guess so,” Maga chuckled.

A few more “oh dears” crept into the conversation before she decided it was time to lie back down, so we bid each other adieu.

“I’ll be talking to you again pretty soon,” Maga said.

“Of course!”

“Thank you for calling. I appreciate hearing your voice.”

“I’m glad we were able to chat. I miss you! Love you, Maga.”

“I love you too, dear.”



I have to be honest. After last week’s call, I didn’t think I’d have a post to write this week. But, like the rest of 2020, it’s full of surprises, and Maga rallied and here we are.

Caregiver M answered the phone and let me know Maga’d had a shower and, while back in bed, she was awake and was “twirling her hair” so the speaker phone was turned on.

“Hi, Maga! It’s Abby!”

“Hello, dear.” Her voice was tired, and yet, alert. “Where are you?”

“In [state]. At my mom’s house.”

“It’s a good state. I spent a lot of time there.”

“You did, indeed!” I was fairly blown away by her recall.

She faded, so I reached for a tried and true topic. “Did you get much sun today?”

Her chuckles came through weakly. “Oh, no. I don’t ever have any fun.”

“What about sunshine? Did you get outside today?”


“A big snowstorm is headed our way tomorrow!”

“Is it?”

“We’re going to get a lot of snow, but my dad has a snow blower, so that means I don’t have to shovel. I’m pretty excited about it.”

“A what?”

“My dad has a machine that cleans the driveway.”

“Where are you?” Maga asked.

“At my mom’s house. I’m here for the holidays.”


I tried for a new tactic. “When you were young and had a Christmas tree in your living room, did you put white lights or colored lights on it?” (Reader: I had to reword this question a couple of times, but she got there eventually.)

“Colored lights on the tree,” she said.

“Me too!”

“It’s tradition and I like the colored lights showing.”

I tried to explain that it’s a big argument between colored light bulbs vs white lights. She didn’t fully follow, but as we’re all aware of life in quarantine, sometimes, the sheer act of showering takes all your energy and you don’t have anything left in the tank for a phone call. We spoke a little longer, but I didn’t want to tax her too much.

A casual conversation sprinkled with a few new details was a thousand times more than I even dared to hope for last week, so I hung up with a huge smile on my face.



On our daily walk, my mom warned me that Maga’s “sleepy days” were increasing, but while I was preparing dinner a couple of hours later, I overheard them talking and it seemed like Maga was awake and doing okay.

Caregiver M answered the phone.

“M? Hi! It’s Abby.”

“Oh, hello, Abby. Your Maga is in bed, but let me tell her you’re on the phone.”


“I’m going to put you on speaker, so your Maga can hear you.”

“Perfect.” I waited for the cue. “Hi, Maga! It’s Abby!”

“Hello, Abby dear.”

Her words were slurred and difficult to come by. I didn’t want to force a conversation, but I also didn’t want to say goodbye. I asked a couple of yes/no questions, but the effort to answer them seemed too great.

“Goodnight and goodbye,” Maga said.

“I love you,” I said.

“I love you too.”



“Hi, Maga. It’s Abby. How are you?”

“I’m in the middle of dinner, so I guess you could say I’m good.”

And then she hung up on me. I gave the situation a few minutes because me calling back right away never works. As I was gearing up for call #2, my phone rang!

“Hi, Maga!”

“Hi, Abby dear.”

“Whatcha up to?” (Reader: this is not the slang I used while talking to her, as she could not hear me very well.)

“I’m eating dinner.”

“Whatcha having?”

“A hamburger on a roll.”

“It’s shephard’s pie,” Caregiver M called. And after some confusion, Maga listed off the items on her plate instead: “carrots, peas, ground beef, soup…”

“And you have a good looking dessert,” Caregiver M said.

“Tell me about it,” I said.

Maga fumbled for words, for the ability to hear my tone of voice… Caregiver M kindly directed things and had Maga pose for a photo. After a lifetime of making all those around her pose for photos, Maga certainly took being set-up for a photo with more patience than we ever granted her as the photographer.

“Cheese,” she said.

“Tell Abby I’m sending her the photo,” Caregiver M said.

“Maga!” I cried after receiving the photo, “you match your dessert!”


“Your sweater is the same color as your food.”


“It’s mandarin parfait,” Caregiver M supplied.

“Oh yes. I always like dessert,” Maga said in response to my prompt about what her favorite part of dinner was.

There was some jostling with the hearing aid and what ear she had the phone against, but mostly, Maga couldn’t understand my questions about the weather, holiday decorations, her evening plans, etc. She chewed her way through her dinner and through our phone call, which honestly, I was more than fine with because her appetite is harder to find than her hearing aid these days.

“Can you hear me now?” Maga asked after Caregiver M adjusted her phone.

“Umm, yes, I could always hear you,” I said, not willing to go into the facts that her hearing aid doesn’t help me hear her any better…

“I can hear you just fine now,” she said. “So I’ll say goodbye and good luck with consideration in everything you do.”

“Oh, okay, thank you,” I said accepting the end of the call. I had my party favor in the form of a picture and she had her mandarin parfait. A fairly successful Tuesday night.