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.”

“Hi, Maga!”

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.

“[Town, State.]”

“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?”

“Either works.”

Maga paused.

“I’ll call you,” I said.

“Okay. That’s good. Thank you so much for calling tonight.”

“Happy to.”

“Bye, Abby, dear.”

“Love you!”

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.



“Should I answer it?” Maga said as Caregiver M handed her the phone.

“Yes. It’s Abby,” CM said.

“Hi, Maga. It’s Abby!” I said.

“Hi, Abby dear.”

“How are you?”

“I’m good. I’m eating dinner. Have you eaten yet?” She sounded good, chipper, and alert checking in to see if I was taking care of myself.

“I’m making dinner right now!” I sounded good, chipper, and alert too, but inside I was panicking. How was I going to follow a recipe and talk to Maga at the same time? (#silentchef)

“You can hear me chewing, can’t you?” Maga said as I’d taken a minute of silence to double check the next steps of the recipe.

“Well, yes,” I said, “but I’m so glad you have an appetite!”

“What did you do today?”

“I worked from home because the office is closed. I went for a walk. And now I’m cooking dinner. Nothing too spectacular,” I said.

Some crackling noises ensued on her end, as CM came over to help unleash dessert.

“Ooh, what is it?” I asked.


“What flavor?”

“Vanilla icing.”

“Stupid rice isn’t done!” I muttered under my breath, setting the timer for 5 more minutes as the chicken and sauce cooked and cooked and cooked.

“What’s that?” Maga said.

“Oh, I was just talking to my rice. It’s not ready yet, but the chicken is long since done.”

“Sometimes one is faster than the other.”

“True enough.” And vague enough to be applicable advice on a lot of other fronts. I’d have to tuck that nugget in my apron pocket.

We covered my daily activities approximately 5 more times, but that gave me time to get my dinner finished and dished up.

“Who are you eating with?” Maga said.

“Myself,” I said, “And you!” I moved everything around on the countertop and finally sat, ready for the first big bite. A beep beep beep sounded as the phone call dropped.

“What happened.” Maga commanded once we’d reconnected.

“I’m so sorry! I accidentally hung up! I was moving my phone and grabbed the hang up button by accident.”

“[Uncle T] is calling in and he’s been waiting,” CM said.

“Oh, okay. Maga, I’m going to hang up for real this time so other people can talk to you.”


“It’s been great talking to you!”

“Who’s crazy about me?” Maga asked.

“I mean I am, but I said it was GREAT to talk to you!”

“Oh, you too. I’m glad you called and so on and so forth.”

Looks like she’s still got her dinner party etiquette at the ready.



The days are delicate. The nights are long. Any hours awake are tinged with confusion and the sphere of understanding is limited. After multiple texts with Caregiver M over the course of the last few days, I finally managed to touch base with Maga.

“Hi, Maga! It’s Abby.”

“Hello.” It was more question than greeting.

“It’s Abby,” said Uncle T from, likely, farther away than he sounded. His booming voice was a surprising balm because it meant Maga had company and that she’d have no trouble hearing what he said.

After some updates from him, he kindly tried to bring Maga back into the conversation, but she was more invested in her lunch.

“Turkey sandwich?” I guessed.

“Hmmm,” she said.

“It’s actually real turkey,” Uncle T said. “Not the slices on a sandwich.”

“Oh, fancy!” I said. “And then time for pie?”

“Blueberry, it looks like,” he said.

“Maga, you should have eaten that first,” I said.

“Hmm,” she said.

“Well, I just wanted to say hi, but I’ll let you get back to your lunch.”

“Thanks,” she said.

“Love you!”

“Love you too,” she said quietly.