The days of the week don’t mean as much lately, whether it’s due to quarantine life or being two months shy of your 100th birthday, but I do my best to keep up with my weekly call to Maga regardless. Caregiver M responded to my inquiring text just as I was finishing up with dinner, which gave me a few minutes heads up to do the noisy tasks, like washing dishes, before it was time to settle in for a chat.
“She’s almost ready,” CM said to me, as she helped Maga get comfortably arranged in her chair. “It’s Abby,” she said to Maga.
“Hi, Abby, dear.”
Her voice was strong, but her mind was still a bit muddled. She knew dinner on the agenda, but wasn’t sure where it was. She knew we were talking, but couldn’t make out the words I was saying. I guess me detailing the new president’s inauguration involved words in a vocal register not readily audible for her.
“Just a minute,” Maga said. “I’m going to put the phone down.”
“Okay.” I continued wiping down the countertops. Despite some hysteria in her voice moments before, it was surprisingly quiet once she put the phone down. No dial tone sounded, so I stayed on the line. Eventually, voices crept closer.
“Abby’s on the phone,” CM said. “Talk to her.”
“What did you do today?” Maga asked.
“Not all that much. It’s pretty quiet around these parts.”
“It’s pretty quiet around a lot of parts. Where do you live again?”
Silence from Maga.
“Oh, yes, that’s right.”
I always forget that she remembers the town name more than the state, even though the state is one she lived in for four years. It’s fascinating what the brain latches onto and remembers.
“There are a lot of cars outside,” Maga said. “How do you…” She got stuck on that phrase for some time. I quietly let her try to work through her thoughts. “Oh, I don’t know what I’m saying,” Maga said.
“Something about the cars outside?” I suggested.
“I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“Most days, me either!”
“Oh, Abby, dear.” It was a phrase she uttered multiple times throughout our conversation. A simple plea, cry, complaint, and/or frustration all politely packaged. It broke my heart not knowing what to do or say. Talking too much wasn’t working any better than talking too little.
“How I wish I could see you,” Maga said.
“Oh, me too. Me too. Me too. As soon as I can get the covid vaccine, I’m on the first plane to you.”
This comment spiraled out of control as I had to explain covid + vaccines + the current global pandemic. Eventually, CM returned with Maga’s warm(!) panini and as she was setting it up for her, her phone dinged repeatedly. Maga noted that her phone was busy and CM replied that there was a long line of people waiting to talk.
“Ah ha!” I cried. “I won the battle of who got to talk to you first!”
Maga chuckled at that. It seems the bloodthirsty competitive spirit is something (a) she understands and (b) I come by genetically.
It had been nearly 30 minutes by this time and my kitchen was sparkling clean. “Maybe I should stop monopolizing your time, Maga, and let someone else call through.”
“I suppose so. Did you call me or did I call you?”
“I called you.”
“Should I call you next or will you call me?”
“I’ll call you,” I said.
“Okay. That’s good. Thank you so much for calling tonight.”
“Bye, Abby, dear.”
And with that, I alerted the next in line (my mom) that the matriarch was up and communicative, because in this newfound competition, I couldn’t help but share some insider trading info.