June 14, 2017

“ABBY DEAR! We were just talking about you. Did you try to call last night?”

“I did. Multiple times. I left you a message. Did you not get it?”

“I was on the phone with [Sister J] and [Cousin C], so I must have missed you.”

“Well, I got the answering machine, so you weren’t on the phone. Maybe you were out? Can you get messages on that phone?”

“I have a portable phone that sits on the charger here.”

“Yes. But can you get… Well, regardless, I was especially sad not to talk to you since it was Jobo’s birthday.”

“Yesterday? December 7th?”

“No, yesterday, June 13th. How old would he have been?”

“Let’s see. He was a year older than me, so 97. Can you believe it? That’s so close to 100.”

“In fact it is.”

“It was also [Cousin C’s] birthday. She’s here in Colorado, you know.”

“I do know.” And then I went on to explain the nature of Cousin C’s internship to Maga, who was suitably impressed.

“She just got back from a semester abroad,” Maga said.

“Looks like yet another one of your grandchildren have the travel bug.”

“I guess so. Do you really think that’s from me?”

“I do.”

“Did you tell me you’re going to be in Salt Lake City soon?”

“That was not me, though I wish it was. I’ve never been there. Have you?”

“Yes, I believe I was. Sometime with Jobo I’m sure. But don’t hold me to it.”

“I promise I won’t.”

“I’m so glad we are talking tonight because it sure gets lonely around here.”

“I understand that all too well.”

“Yes, you and me. We understand loneliness.”

Even though she literally took that moment to hang up on me (because a caregiver had arrived with medication), her words “you and I” left a “we” shaped imprint on my heart, which was now beating a less lonely tune.


June 6, 2017

It’d been a wash out of an evening. First, softball was canceled. Second, the bus (5 minutes away) disappeared from the app that was tracking it, and, from life. 20 rainy minutes later, the next one arrived. Third, Maga was out to dinner when I called and knowing her dinner companion (Uncle T), I feared they’d be chatting longer than the time difference between there and here allowed me to stay awake.

In the meantime, first, I texted with my 12yo nephew on his brand new phone. His dream of having-his-own-phone came true while my dream of having-someone-whose-name-is-alphabetically-above-mine-so-other-people-will-accidentally-dial-him-instead-of-me came true. I’ve been waiting 12 years for this!! Second, I queried my gal A with all my dumb app/internet questions in the hopes of distracting her (and myself) from this gloomy day. Third, I ogled pictures of Sister E with multiple authors. Fame by association. The sun was starting to shine.

I decided to try Maga one more time because I’m 36, not 96, and it’s not really that late at night.

She greeted me with hiccups and indigestion, but they were a sign of big, full dinner around a table with big, full men. “And what have you been up to lately?” she asked.

“Doing lots of interior decorating research.”

“Oh, that is fun.”

“I guess. It’s also expensive, which is why I’m just doing a lot of research right now. Plus, I’m finding it difficult to get paint supplies without a car.”

“It takes time and experience. You can’t expect to decorate overnight.”

“Yeah, but it sure would be nice.”

The familiar pause / lack of sound that meant someone was beeping in interrupted her response. The caregiver’s voice told her it was her other son calling.

“You are so popular, Maga. Dinner with Uncle T tonight. And now Uncle D is calling!”

“I can go days without phone calls and then they all come at once.”

“When it rains, it pours,” I said.


May 30, 2017

“Abby, dear! Is it Tuesday already?”

“It is indeed. How are you?”

“Well, I’m still here. I guess that’s good.”

“It’s very good!”

“Have you had dinner yet?” Maga asked.

“I finished up a little while ago. You?”

“Same. We just got back from the dining room.”

“And how was it?”

“Ugh. Not very good. I had a sandwich. The bacon was undercooked, the tomato not ripe, and the lettuce wilty. The whole thing fell apart. It’s a shame. You pay so much money and the food is terrible.”

“You just have fancy tastebuds.”

That earned a hearty chuckle. “You may be perfectly right about that department.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I had a dismal dinner as well.”

“Why’s that?”

“I was attempting a new recipe and I was trying to cut it down to a more manageable size for one person and I had to grate some cauliflower and cut up peppers and carrots and I didn’t have all the spices and, well, I think it might have tasted okay if I’d seasoned it better and hadn’t left half the cauliflower on the floor.”

“It sounds like it was just overwhelmed by the change in proportion.”

“You may be perfectly right about that department,” I echoed.

“What other news do you have?”

“I went to a Red Sox game on Saturday.”

“Who’d they play?”

“Seattle. They won quite handily. And it was the only sunny day of the weekend. So much fun.”

“Jobo was fond of the Red Sox when he was at MIT. He didn’t play baseball, but he enjoyed watching it. He’d tell me about the games.”

“Oh, that’s right! That’s so neat to think of him at my stadium all those years ago.”

“Isn’t it?”

“Didn’t he swim or something athletic like that?”

“If you’re talking about water, he fished. He wasn’t much for swimming.”

“Oh, duh. Fishing. Of course. And do you have any news to report?”

“Me? No, not really. What about you? Any family news?”

“Niece M turned 15 on Sunday. She’ll be eligible for her permit soon.”

“Her driver’s permit?” Maga cackled in a way I’d never heard before. “Oh, those are the days.” It was part evil, part whimsical, part logical, and very long. It was contagious.

“Woah,” Maga interrupted her own laughter. “There’s a baseball game on and everyone is hitting everyone.” (Her caregiver explained what caused the fight.) “Have you been to any games lately?” She directed the conversation back to me.

“I went to a Red Sox game on Saturday.”

“Who’d they play?”

“Seattle. They won quite handily. And it was the only sunny day of the weekend. So much fun.”

“Oh there’s an advertisement on for Elitch’s. Did you ever go there?”

“Yup. But it was ages and ages ago. I was very young. I remember it because Sister J got hit with the bar safety-belt-thing. It clocked her on the head as she was getting off the roller coaster.”

“Oh my! I don’t think I’ve ever heard this story. I think they didn’t want to worry me. She didn’t have to go to the hospital, did she?”

“Oh, no nothing like that, but we did have to go to the first aid station to get ice and headache medicine. I think they gave her free rides the rest of the day, but she felt too sick to go on any.”

“When was this?”

“Oh man. So long ago. I don’t really remember anything but Sister J getting hurt. I couldn’t have been more than 10, but probably younger.”

“I bet no one told me this story because they didn’t want me to worry. Oh, the game’s back on. And didn’t you say you were just at a game?”

“I did.”

“Jobo and I went sometimes. I liked it more than football. Football’s a rough game.”

“The baseball game you’re watching appears to be quite violent too!”

Maga cackled again, but not nearly as beautifully as before. Probably because the next words out of her mouth were, “Oh, Abby dear. I wish you were closer. I wish you were here. But you aren’t, so I’ll have to get over that longing.”

Her determination to beat back the loneliness was admirable. And so, I stayed on the line for even longer than usual letting her regal me with tales of polaroid no longer selling film, answering her questions about smart phones, trying not to be jealous of all the upcoming visitors in her schedule book, and enjoying the other opportunities I was gifted to make her laugh.


May 23, 2017

“And what have you been up to since we last spoke?” Maga said.

“I hosted Sister E this past weekend, so that was fun.”

“Did you go out to eat in New York?”



I repeated myself, but she still didn’t catch it. She prompted me again. Before that devolved into a shouting match, I rephrased because I had a sneaking suspicion she wasn’t wearing her hearing aid. “Sister E came to visit me, so we didn’t go out in New York, but rather in the city of Boston.”

“Oh, she stayed with you in your apartment?”

“YES.” I’m not ashamed to admit I pumped my fist. “I hear you have some big dinner plans of your own tonight.”

“Why yes. C and J are taking me to the taverna place near me. How did you know that?”

“C texted me that she kindly made dinner plans with you but accidentally made them for Tuesday and she didn’t want to interrupt our usual call. Which is why I’m calling right now.”

“It’s been some time since I’ve seen them so we’ll have lots of catching up to do. How’s your weather been?”

“All over the place. Rainy then hot then perfectly sunny and now back to coolish and cloudy.”

“But no snow?”

“Oh gosh no. Just rain. And hopefully no more of that for a few days.”

“That’ll be a little bit of all right.”


“I don’t like snow in the spring or summer.”

“Umm. Me neither. Is that even a thing?”

“When you’re at an altitude of 5,280 feet it is. And do you have any upcoming travel plans?”

“Not really. Not yet. I’m still getting used to the new budget now that I’m a home owner.”

“Taxes and all that. Yes, I know. You’ve been doing a lot of travel for business and for personal reasons, though. It’s good.”

“I am very lucky, yes. You traveled a lot too back in the day.”

“Yes, with Jobo. I went many places with him while he was on business.”

Impressed with her recall of Denver’s altitude, I decided to test her memory. “What was your favorite place to visit?”

“You’ve just thrown me a curve,” she said, but barely two seconds later, “Probably the trip to China. Taiwan. I’d written to the Wellesley office to see if they needed me to take anything to a classmate who lived there and they sent me a huge box of souvenirs and such and so I brought it all to her and we had tea.”

“That was nice of you. Who was she?”

Maga repeated the woman’s name, but I didn’t catch it. I prompted her again. She rephrased it because she had a sneaking suspicion my global, political knowledge wasn’t up to par. “The wife of the President who was in charge before the Communists drove him out.”

“Woah. You had tea with the First Lady?”

“Yes. It was a very interesting trip. I enjoyed it immensely.”

The time was creeping closer to her guests’ arrival, so Maga begged off the call to give herself time to spruce up which left me with more questions than answers, but also with a greater understanding of just how cool my grandmother is.


May 16, 2017

I was walking away from a dinner involving the first people I worked with in Boston + some of my current coworkers. It was later than normal, but due to the public transportation I was headed towards, I didn’t think I’d make it to my quiet apartment before Maga’s bedtime, so I dialed her number on my walk to the T.

I battled other pedestrians and cars and the darkness and not entirely knowing where I was, but we chatted about the weather (3x) and why I was calling so late and who I’d been out with and how she’d talked to my mom and about Maga’s newest grandchild / my cousin once removed (or is it my second cousin?) and it was all the usual topics but in an unusual environment which made me feel normal and more like myself after a night of pretending I was more grownup than I felt.