“Hi Maga. It’s Abby.”

“Oh, Abby dear. I wasn’t sure you’d call since we spoke yesterday.”

“Well, today’s Tuesday. I like sticking to schedule.”

“Yes. It’s true. We can’t let a Tuesday go by without a good phone call.”


“Is today [Sister J]’s birthday?”

“It is.”

“I see here on my pad of paper that today is her birthday. And yours was on Sunday. And I forgot to call or send a card.”

“No worries. We talked yesterday. And today. I can feel the birthday love. Even if it’s [Sister J]’s big day today.”

“Your birthday was on Sunday. [Sister J]’s is today. When is [Brother G]’s?”

“A week from today, the 17th. And then [Sister E]’s is the 28th.”

“You are…?”


“And [Sister J] is…?”


“And [Brother G] is…?”


“And [Sister E] is…?”


“Oh my how time flies. It’s also sort of funny that all your birthdays happen to come at the same time, but I guess that’s the way of things.”

“It’s a big month of celebrating that’s for sure,” I said trying not to think of further about that specific ‘way of things.’

“I suppose it’s too late to call [Sister J]? They must have left for dinner by now.”

“I got off the phone with her a little bit ago. She was about to put [Mac3] to bed, so it’s just about a perfect time for you to call her. She’ll love that.”

From a Tuesday call to a birthday call, Maga’s dance card sure was full tonight.



“Yesterday was your birthday and I completely forgot to call or send a card,” Maga said. “But do you know how I remembered?”

“It’s yours and Jobo’s anniversary today,” I said.

“Our 73rd.”

“I always remember because it’s the day between my birthday and Sister J’s.”

“Why, yes, you’re right.”

“73 years is an impressive feat. Did you do any celebrating while my mom and dad were there this weekend?”

“Not really, no, because the most important person wasn’t there.”

Her voice was raw with love lost and so I did the only thing I could. “Tell me more about why you chose January to get married. It’s kind of an unusual month.”

“Jobo graduated MIT in 1941. I graduated Wellesley in 1942 so we couldn’t do any of those years. And then in December of 1942, Pearl Harbor happened and Joe decided to enlist. It was awful. We got married January 9, 1943 and he left for the Navy a couple of weeks later. He got an assignment in Alaska and I moved to California so in case he got leave, it would be easier for him to get to California than New Jersey.”

“Did you like California?”

“Oh, yes. I lived in a home with other service wives. I got a job. And then Jobo got reassigned to DC which was good because that meant I could be with him.”

And for 64 more years, they remained together. A love story of epic proportions.



“Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions?” I said.

“No,” Maga said. “I didn’t. Did you?”


“What’s a good resolution to make?” And before I could answer, she did. “Good health. Although that’s not always under our control.”

Another thing not under my control was the rest of the conversation. It careened from Christmas vacation to how I found my new living situation to if I’d met my neighbors to what my new address is to what my phone number is and wound back around to how I found my place.

“The internet,” I said, trying to slow the barrage of questions.

“The internet? That’s a good place to find things.”

“It sure is.”

“When you get settled into your new place, you’ll have kiddies running around soon.”

I’m not sure which previously stated advice to follow: some things are not under our control, or, the internet is a good place to find things.


conversations with strangers #135


The automatic door forgot its one job, so the man in front of me labored through the heavy door and held it for me.

“There you go,” he said.

As my hand replaced his on the frame, I pushed it a little more. “Oh. There. It caught. Of course. Now that we’re both through the door.”

“Just my luck,” he said.

For that brief moment, we were together in the same boat. Stuck in the midst of a non-working world. Which, yes, is a direct analogy for this post election USA.



“Tell me about your visit with my mom and dad.”

“It was wonderful,” Maga said. “So wonderful to have them here. Your folks look great. Your mom always looks great and I’d say retirement agrees with your dad.”

“He is freshly retired but keeping busy!”

“I’ll say. They stopped off at the house to get the green car and they had rented a car at the airport so they had two cars and could go in different directions if they wanted.”

“Did they need to go in different directions?”

“Well, I’m a bit of a collector as I’m sure you’re aware.”


“And so they had to go through a lot of stuff. Get rid of it. They had to take things to places where you can leave them if you don’t need them.”

The lack of ability to recall the word dump or goodwill or salvation army was not due to her 95.5 years of age. It was solely due to her status as a “collector.”

“And they didn’t even invite me to go with them.”

“Maga! Surely you didn’t want to go. It wouldn’t have been fun for you.”

“Yes, I guess you’re right.”

Actually, I lied to her. I knew it would have been fun. Far too much fun in fact because what’s one person’s trash is always Maga’s treasure.