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.



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.”