“Hi, Abby,” said Caregiver M. “Just a moment.”

There were some scuffling noises, then Maga’s clear voice, “Hello, Abby dear. How are you?”

“I’m doing well and you?”

“It’s a lovely day outside. I think we might go for a walk. How’s your weather?”

“Terribly gray and rainy.”

“Oh dear. Do you get into the office?”

“Nope. It’s closed.”

“Since when?”

“March 16.”

“Do you get over to my place?”

“No, but umm, which is your place?”

“My house. My care center.”

“No, haven’t been able to get there.”

“The one in NJ.”

(Her care center is decidedly not in NJ, but her childhood home was.)

“Oh, no,” I said. “Haven’t been there either. I don’t have a car.”

“How far apart are we?” she asked.

“About 3,000 miles.”

“Oh that’s far.”

“Too far.”

“Would you come see me?”

“As soon as I’m able, you’ll be my first visit.”


“Of course!”

“What else do you do?”

“You know, not a whole lot these days, though work has been keeping me very busy.”

“No new stories?”

“No. My life is rather boring lately. Which I’m okay with. Boring but busy.”

“Ugh. I know boring!” Maga said.

Although, one has to admit, the ability to time travel back to your childhood home does tend to liven things up!



“Oh, honey,” Maga said. “How are you?”

“I’m hanging in there. And you?”

“I’m okay I guess.”

Her words were heavy, slow, and hard to come by.

“Did you have any…interesting…comments…or…things?” Maga said.

“You know what? I’m afraid I didn’t. I haven’t had anything of note happen for about three months.”

“Why not?”

“Because of covid and quarantine.”

“Where are you?”

“My apartment.”

“No. What town?”

“[This town.]”

“Oh, yes. How could I forget? Did you have work?”

“Yes. That kept me very busy today.”

“…In the office?”

“No, at home. My office has been closed since March.”

“How do you get…the information?”

“Through my computer.”


She fumbled through some more conversation about the weather and her tv, so in an attempt to lead, I mentioned I was thinking about getting a pet to help with the isolation.

“A what?” Maga said.

“A pet.”


“An animal.”

“An enema?”

“A pet. An animal. A cat. A dog.”

“Oh, animal. A pet,” she said. “Are you liking a cat or a dog?”

“Probably a cat. Did you ever have any pets?”

“I lived with my grandmother and she didn’t like them, so I never had one. It wasn’t that much fun.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s too bad.” I noted she skipped over the majority of her life and went straight to her childhood memories. “What about with Jobo? Did you guys have any pets?”

She floundered around. I gently guided her towards the topic of the dog they’d had. “Oh, yes,” she said. “[Uncle D] painted a picture of him.”

“Buck. Yes. In the living room.”

“Yes! It was such a good painting.”

“And he was a good dog, right?”

“He was a little thing.”

I thought he was a medium to large dog, but then again, my sharpest memory of that dog is said painting, which is just of his face, so I’m going to trust what Maga said. Even if her words remained heavy and slurred throughout our conversation. When I heard her dinner tray get dropped off, I used that as a cue to let her get on with her afternoon/evening. Besides we’d already traded all the boring stories we had. Just another Tuesday night in quarantine.



I’d gotten in the habit of waiting for Maga’s caregiver to text me when it was a good time to call, but with work running late, cooking dinner, a zoom birthday call, another facetime, and no text, I lost track of time. I relied on my old faithful, google calendar.

The notification popped up like old times and I called like old times and Maga answered like old times.

“Hello, Abby dear.”

“Whatcha up to, Maga?”

“I just finished dinner.”

“How was it?”

“Average. But it’s over now, so there’s that. Did you go to work today?”

“If you mean my 2nd bedroom, then yes, I went to work.”

That took some explaining and re-explaining, but we forged on… to the weather.

“What was your weather like today?” I asked.

I could hear Caregiver M coaching Maga on what to say. “Hot. About 92°.”

“Wow! That is quite warm.”

“I don’t really like the hot weather. I just put up with it when it comes.”

If that’s a mediation motto, I don’t know what is.

The conversation looped back to the pandemic and quarantines and being stuck inside.

“I wonder when it will be over,” Maga said.

“Not anytime soon, I don’t think.”

“Horrors,” Maga said.

Her flat tone cracked me up despite the terrible truth of it. She was her old self and I was loving it.

“Is it July?” she said.

“Not quite yet. Mid-June.”

“It’s been 6 months now?”

“Not quite. It feels like 6, but it’s been about 3.”

“Did you go to work today?”

“Well, I worked from home on my computer. I’m lucky to be able to do that.”

“So you work through your computer. I see. That explains a lot to me.”

Even if she doesn’t understand computers, by golly, I do believe she understood that they are genius machines that allow us to do amazing things, like work during a global pandemic or see each while still remaining in quarantine.

“Oh, Abby darling, how I’d love to see you.”

The feeling was mutual, but I didn’t try to push my luck with getting her hooked up on facetime. We’ve been down that road and it’s shorter than her understanding of how computers work. I settled for the soothing balm of hearing her say my name. It had been a few weeks since she’d been able to address me as such and I wasn’t about to gloss over this moment.



“Well, I’m eating dinner right now,” Maga said.

“Lunch,” her caregiver called.

“I’m eating lunch right now,” Maga said.

“As long as you’re eating, the meal doesn’t matter!” I said. “What are you eating?”

“Let’s see. Chicken. Broccoli. What’s this?”

“An orange,” her caregiver called.


“An orange,” Caregiver M repeated.


“Fruit, Maga. An orange,” I said.

“Oh, an orange.”

“Thank you, Abby,” Caregiver M called. It’s a give and take here.

“What we were talking about?” Maga asked.

“Just making idle chit chat.”

“That’s a good way to put it.”

“It’s wonderful to hear your voice,” I said.

“I’m so glad you can do that.” Spoken with the confidence of a 99yo. “Where are you?”

“My apartment.”

“In [Town].”

“Yes! Good memory. Very near your college.”

“What a good time that was. I really liked my time there.”

Her speech was lucid and her memory was firing on all cylinders, so I decided to push it. “How did decide to go there?”

“You know, I don’t really remember how. It’s a well known school. I had a hard time deciding, but I’m glad I went there. It was a happy experience. I was a happy person there.”

Bright, silver notes threaded through her tone illuminating that happiness.

“I had many good friends there. Where did you go?”

“I went to your state, Virginia, to a school called James Madison University.”

“What did you like about it?”

“Hmm. Same as you, I think. My friends. I have wonderful friends from there. Also, the part where I got to study abroad in England.”

“Oh, I bet you enjoyed that. I’d forgotten you got to do that.”

“I’d happily go back in a heartbeat. Heck, I’d settle for just out of state. I’d love to see my family!”

“I’d love to see you too.”

“You’re at the top of my list.”

“I believe you’re the first person I’ve spoken to today.”

“Maga. You were just on the phone with my mom.”

“Who’s your mom again?”

“[C]. Your eldest.”

“Oh, yes. My firstborn. She got me first or I got her first.”


“I did talk to her.”

“You get to talk to her way more than I do.”

“I don’t think so.”

“She calls you every day! I can’t get her to do that for me.”

Maga laughed. “That’s funny you say that.”

It was a gentle laugh. I’m not entirely sure if she was laughing with me or at me, or at the thought someone would prioritize her, or at the realization she didn’t remember the frequency with which they talked. I took it as a signal her her memory was no longer firing on all cylinders, and, grateful for the time I got tonight, allowed her to go back to her lunch food at dinnertime.



“Hi, Maga. It’s Abby.”

“Hi, Abby dear.”

“How are you?”

“Well, I’m here.”

“That’s enough for me!”

“What did you do today?”

“Let’s see. It was a very busy work day, and then I talked with a friend as it’s her birthday.”

“How old is he?”

“She is 39.”

“Your son?!”

I burst out laughing. “No, no. My friend. I don’t have a son.”

“How could you have a son that age?”

“I don’t have a son that age or any age.”

“Whose birthday was it?”

“My friend. Girl friend. From college. School. Friend.” I threw a whole bunch of words out there to see what would stick.

“What day is today?” Maga said.


“Oh, yes. The day you usually call.”

“I’m nothing if not consistent,” I said.

“No, I think not.”

I took a moment to puzzle it out and came to zero conclusions, so decided it was best to switch things up. “Are you watching TV?”


I was about to ask a follow-up question when she continued speaking. “This talented love man. I don’t know who he is.”

“Nor I.” Nor I, dear reader, as he’s woefully absent from my life.

“This crazy man. He has a piece of toast. He’s wearing it.”


“T-O-A-S-T.” Maga spelled for me.

“And he’s wearing it?”

“Yes. It’s a crazy program.”

“Sounds like it.”

“You’re such a dear relative to call. Thank you.”

And just like that, I was dismissed. I guess I wasn’t surprised, really, because a talented love man wearing toast? I’d rather pay attention to that too.