October 2, 2019

“I don’t think I’m going to sleep tonight,” Maga said.

“Why’s that?”

“I just don’t think so.”

“What do you do when you wake up at night?”

“Count some sheep.”

“You could try counting your blessings.”

“Oh, yes, I could.”

“That will keep you warm and cozy.”

“That’s what I want.”

“And it makes the dark less so.”

“That sounds pleasant.”

“Why do you think you won’t sleep tonight?”

“Things have been strange lately.”

She may not always be able to remember it, but her two daughters are halfway across the world on an epic adventure and the lack of communication with them (particularly Aunt J) is hitting Maga hard.

“Isn’t today Wednesday?” Maga asked.

“It is.”

“Why are you calling?”

“Am I not allowed to?”

“No, no. You can. But why.”

“I just wanted to talk to you. Is that okay?”

“Oh, yes. sure. They’re making a movie about Judy Garland.”

“Yes, they are. Did you like her?”

“Not really. I never paid much attention to her.”

“Why not??”

“I didn’t always like singing people so well. I mean I like them fine enough but it wasn’t that important to me.”

“Who was?”

“Those good actors.”

“Like, oh, Audrey Hepburn?”

“Sure. Yes. She was good. I just don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep tonight.”

“I think you’ll be okay.”

“I don’t. What am I going to do if I don’t sleep tonight? I’m just so confused.”

“It’s okay. You’re okay.”

“It doesn’t feel like it. I’m all mixed up.”

“It happens,” I said truly, honestly, accurately. “You know what? I thought today was Thursday. All day long.”

“Today’s Wednesday!” Maga cried. “What a big mistake.”

“You see. It happens all the time.”

“But what am I going to do if I don’t sleep? I just don’t think I will.”

Caught in a circle much like one’s thoughts in the dark corners of evening, I did my best to soothe, to redirect, to tackle the questions head on. We talked for over 45 minutes until it seemed like a granddaughter wasn’t enough and I reached out to my Uncle D. Perhaps his deeper tones would be better at banishing the things that go bump in the night.



September 30, 2019

“What did you do today,” Maga asked, giving no indication she remembered talking to me earlier.

“I worked, played squash at lunch, and went to the library.”

“Did you pick up a…” she paused, thinking hard for a word, “good book?”

“I did.”

“What it called?”

I paused thinking of the best way to handle this one word title that I just knew she wouldn’t be able to make out if I spoke it. “The title is S-L-A-Y.”

“Oh, Slay. Is it…” she paused again searching for a word.

“It’s fiction and judging from the name, I think it’s kind of violent.”

“Well, there’s a bathroom that’s not very nice.”


“Peyton Manning is looking for a home.”



I bit back my laughter and my retort at the incorrect assumption she made. It was time for me to just go where the conversation led. I could hear the TV on in the background, so I had a good idea of where this might end up.

“I’ve never enjoyed watching food on TV,” Maga said.

The comment was out of the blue and yet it was in sync with what I was expecting. You see we got a worrisome note this morning from Mom regarding Maga and I wasn’t sure what to expect on the other end of the phone tonight. Sure her confusion with people and words has increased over the past few weeks, but she’s always maintained a relatively chipper attitude with me. A benefit of being a granddaughter and not a daughter, I suspect. I know she’s 98 and slowing down and so I accept my duties to offer sunshine and support in whatever measures I can, even if it means settling in for an in-depth discussion of tonight’s TV programming.


September 24, 2019

“I didn’t want to miss you while I was out in the open field,” Maga said.


She chuckled. “Yes, that.”

The truth was that she was out for a walk* and while I’d tried her three times earlier, my timing was off. Fortunately, her caregiver suggested she give me a call, but they had to come back inside to fetch my phone number.

“I’m honored you came back inside for me, but I don’t want to take you away from the fresh air.”

“I’ve always loved the fall.”

“Me too! Did you love the fall better in MA or CO?”

“I loved it in Massachusetts at the time. Oh my. Are you watching this? It’s raining or snowing and someone got beat up.”

“Noooo. What is it?”

“Turn on NBC.”


“So we can watch this show together.”

The sentiment was heart-meltingly sweet and it was almost enough to override my inability to use technology, but not quite. You see, I was watching a DVD from the library and to switch the input back to the TV and potentially lose my place within the DVD when I don’t actually know which episode of Homeland I’m on because I just hit “play all” when I put the disk in…well, it had me feeling closer to 98 than 38.

“I don’t sweat new jobs,” Maga said.

*silent snickering*

“Oh, oh, oh, there’s a big hairy dog. He’s so big. You’ve got to see this. Are you watching it?”

“Not yet.”

“And there’s a baby, there’s an ambulance. They put a sheet over him. I think he died.”

“I think it’s fake.”

“I hope so. Are you watching it?”

“Not yet.”

But, I mean, why watch NBC’s The Voice when you can have your 98yo grandmother narrate it to you?


September 17, 2019

Voices filtered through the receiver. “Do you have visitors?” I said.

“No. I was just saying goodbye to M,” Maga said. “You know M?”

“Oh, yes. She’s an angel. And look at you multitasking!”

“What? I didn’t catch that.”

“Even at 98, you can multi-task.” I brought my phone to my mouth and clearly stated each word.

“Oh, yes. I don’t how I got to be that old. Just a second. I have to say goodbye to M.”

“No problem.” As I waited, it occurred to me we were both speaking to each other as we wished to be spoken to. Maga was narrating her actions and I was speaking in longer sentences trying to establish a rhythm in the conversation.

“I’m back,” Maga said. “What day is today?”


“Of course. Our day.”

“Do you know what today also is?”


“Today is Tuesday, but it’s also an important day.”


“It’s your eldest child’s birthday.”

“Probably so.”

Well, there went the helium out of my (birthday) balloon. I got over the shock and tried again. “Today is my mom’s birthday.”


Now there’s the proper reaction I was expecting…but I wasn’t ready to be done with our conversation. “I’m sure she’d love to hear from you, but first tell me about your day.”

“Mmmhmm,” she said. “What have you been up to?”

“Not much. Just work. Seeing friends. Mostly work.”

“So, let’s see. What else is new?”

“Not much. Mostly work. And a new roof…”

“Oh, did you get that?”

Pleased with her memory kicking into gear, I didn’t bother correcting her that we’re not quite signed with a contractor yet. “Yes, but pricey. It’s cutting into my social life.”

“What color is it?”


“Oh, yes, a nice beige color.”

“Gray!” I shouted into the phone.



“Oh, gray. Anything special been going on lately?”

I sighed. “Nope. Just work.” I’m truly not sure if she just can’t hear me or if she hopes I’ll have something more interesting to say?

“How do you get to work?”


“And you have three floors?”

“Umm, at work or at home?”

“At home!” Exasperation tinged her tone as if she couldn’t believe I couldn’t keep up.

“Yes. Three floors. How many do you have at [Care Center]?”

“Three floors also, so that makes it pleasant.”

More clanging and a soft “thank you” from Maga to her nighttime caregiver. “My caregiver is clearing my tray.”

“Did you…eat dinner in your room?”



“I didn’t feel like being surrounded by all the people.”

So I guess the three floors doesn’t make it all that pleasant…

“What’s that noise?” Maga asked me.

“My drawers. I’m rearranging them.”

“In the kitchen?”

“In my bedroom. My dresser. Too many clothes.”


Her typical response when she can’t hear me clearly. “Well, Maga, I know you said you might go for a walk tonight, so why don’t I let you go now so that before the walk you can call my mom and wish her a happy birthday?”

“It is lovely out tonight and I should call your mother. Is she going out for her birthday?”

“Tomorrow night, so right now is a perfect time for you to call.”

“I suppose it is. Well, I will talk to you next Wednesday. I wish you a good week until then.”


“It’s been lovely talking to you.”

“And you.”

“I hope it’s been wonderful to talk to me.”

“Of course, Maga, it always is!”

And no matter how frustrating the audio or memory issues are, it always is a treat. Especially when the sides of the conversation unexpectedly mirror each other. I guess that rhythm I was looking for was present after all.


September 10, 2019

“I saw Aunt C and Uncle N today,” Maga said.

“Or, as I like to call them, Mom and Dad.”

*pause* “Oh. Yeah. I guess that’s right. Have you seen them much?”

“My parents?”



“Why not?”

“They’re visiting you. I’m in Massachusetts.”



*pause* “Oh. I’m sounding a bit mixed up and confused, I bet.”

“I don’t mind.”

“I bet you don’t. I’m just looking at my calendar trying to figure out what’s what.” She recited a bunch of line items, including how one of my uncles called her.

“You record when people telephone you?” I asked.


“Do you ever record when I call?”

“No, because I know every Tuesday we talk. That’s our day, right?”

“It is.” I guess after 10 years or so, it was bound to stick in her brain, even if nothing else was tonight.

“I’m just looking at my calendar trying to figure out what’s what.”

“And what have you figured out?”

She recited the same line items as before. Including wondering why no one had invited her to dinner. I tried to explain potential various reasons of where Aunt C and Uncle N might be. I attempted to divert the conversation to other family members and their recent travels. I even did a deep dive into my own daily activities (work and friends, etc.), but she wouldn’t let go of the hurt and disappointment at not being invited to tonight’s meal. Mind you, I doubt there was anything spectacular going on and she had a caregiver with her so she wasn’t alone and her hearing’s been better (or maybe it was just my phone) and her memory was slippery at best.

And so, I went over my mom’s phone number with Maga. “908…” I said again and again and again. Digit by digit by digit. The last four digits seemed just out of grasp. Over and over and over it we went. Then, she put it all together.

“That’s it! Perfect.”

“I’ll give your mom a call once we’re done talking.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

“One more time, it’s 908…” The middle three digits now befuddled her. And so I went over and over and over them. She had it. Until she didn’t.

“So, it’s 823…” she said.

I nearly lost it. Just like she somehow lost the phone number we’d gone over umpteen times. “Okay, nope. Let’s try it again.”

Amidst the recitation of numbers, I began to understand how, even when surrounded with people, one can feel alone and just like that, I had a clear view into Maga’s sad, disappointed, confused state of mind. Hopefully that clear view softened the frustration ringing through my tone.

I only wish my phone’s audio worked well enough for me to explain that she shouldn’t feel left out, but grateful she got to see my parents today and yesterday and Sunday and will for nearly a week more yet and to know how hard they’re working to get her house in shape, but sometimes when the mind is fluid and not retaining facts, no matter how practical and logical one is, the only thing that sticks is emotion.

And in this case, it was better for me to step aside and let the mother and daughter work it out. I made sure she had my mom’s phone number, took off my referee shirt, and bid her adieu.