A Thanksgiving Story: Conversations with My 94-Year-Old Aunt

October 7th – Call to Aunt Gloria

Gloria:                     Hello.

Me:                        Hello, Aunt Gloria.  Happy birthday!

Gloria:                     Who is this?

Me, yelling:         Ruthi.

Gloria:                     Who?

Me, louder:         Ruthi, your niece.

Gloria:                     Who are you?  What do you want?

Me:                        I called to say happy birthday.

Gloria:                     I don’t know you. I’m old. Why are you bothering me?


October  19th  – Visit with Aunt Gloria and Shirley (Aunt Gloria’s daughter)

Hugs all around.

Gloria:                     Come in the kitchen. I made coffee cake.

Me:                        Aunt Gloria, you look beautiful. Is that a new dress?

Gloria:                     What?

Me:                        Your dress. Is it new?

Gloria:                     Shirley picked it out. I don’t like it. It’s drab. I don’t know why she picks out dull colors for me. I like bright colors. She made me give away all my six-inch heels last year. Now she dresses me in dull colors like she’s getting ready to bury me.

Shirley:                 Mama, you were right there in the store and said you liked the dress. And you’d fall in those heels.

Gloria:                    It’s alright. I put a scarf with it so people don’t think I’m dead and bury me.

Me, laughing:     Aunt Gloria, nobody could mistake you for dead! you’re wonderful. I love you so much.

Gloria:                     Why don’t you ever call me then?

Me:                        I do. I called you last Friday.

Gloria:                    Shirley, why didn’t you tell me?

Me:                        Shirley wasn’t there. You answered the phone but you couldn’t hear me.

Gloria:                    My hearing aids don’t work. I can’t hear a thing.

Me:                        You said you didn’t know me and hung up.

Gloria:                    Well, call me anyway.

Shirley:                 I’m taking her to get new hearing aids next week.

Me:                        That’s good news, Aunt Gloria. Then you can hear me.

October  31st – Call

Me:                        Hello, Aunt Gloria, it’s Ruthi.

Gloria:                     Who is this?

Me, shouting:    Ruthi Birch.

Gloria:                     Who?

Me:                        Your niece, Ruthi.

Gloria:                     I don’t know you. What do you want?

Me:                        To talk to Shirley.

Gloria:                     There’s no Jerry here.


November 8th – Call

Nurse:                   Hello.

Me:                        This is Gloria’s niece, Ruthi. Is she awake?

Gloria, yelling in the background:         Who is it?

Nurse:                   It’s Ruthi.

Gloria, yelling: Hang up. I don’t know any Bruce. It’s probably one those people who call all the time to buy my house and put me on the street. Tell them to put it in the mail.

Nurse, yelling:   No. It’s your niece.

Gloria:                     Bernice? Why’s she bothering me? I never liked her. She’s always got some new ailment. Tell her I’m dead.

Nurse to me:      I think you should try again when Shirley’s home.

November 28th – Visit Thanksgiving morning


Gloria:                     Why are you here so early? Dinner’s not till two.

Me:                       I wanted to see you for Thanksgiving. I can’t stay for dinner because I’m going to Florida.

Gloria:                     That’s good. It’s warm there. We’ll have too many people here anyway.

Me:                        I brought you something. I found this Frank Sinatra record and remembered you have a record player, so I got it for you.

Gloria:                     I have that one already, but it’s okay. Mine is scratched. Come in here. I’ll play it.

~Plays record at top volume~

Gloria:                     Come on. Get up and dance with me.    

We dance. She leads.

Me:                        Aunt Gloria, you’ve still got it!

Gloria:                     You bet I do.

Me:                       I hate to leave you, but I have to go to the airport. I’ll call you – I wish you could hear me. When are you getting your new hearing aids?

Gloria:                     I got them. But I never wear them. They’re too much trouble.

Me:                       Please wear them. I like to talk with you. The last time I called, the nurse answered. She told you I was on the phone, but you thought she said it was Bernice.

Gloria:                     Why would she call me?

Me:                       To talk? Bernice is one of the few people left from when you were a girl.

Gloria:                     I never liked her. She was sour. She couldn’t get a date. I was popular. I had boyfriends and went out. She couldn’t even get a date to the prom. Her brother had to pay my brother to take her.

Me:                       Her heart’s bad. She’s been in the hospital.

Gloria:                     That’s Bernice! To hear her tell it she’s been living the last 20 years at deaths door. And, honestly, I never liked her. She never smiled. It’s no wonder she couldn’t get a date.

Me:                       I have to go. I’ll call you, so wear your hearing aids!

Gloria:                     Tell me when you’re going to call, and I’ll put them in.

Me:                        Bye, Aunt Gloria. I love you lots.

Gloria, blowing kisses:                    

                                I love you. Call me, and use hand sanitizer on the plane. Those things are full of germs.

November 29th –  Call

Gloria:                     Hello. Who is this?

Me:                        It’s Ruthi, Aunt Gloria.

Gloria:                     Who? Talk louder. I can’t hear you.

Me, yelling:         Ruthi.

Gloria:                     Who?

Me, louder:         Ruthi, your niece.

Gloria:                     I can’t hear you. What do you want?

Me:                        Just to tell you I love you.

Gloria:                     I don’t know you. Why are you bothering me?


November 25, 2019