I talk with my mom on the phone every few days if I can manage it. She lives in San Diego with my brother Matt and his wife Stacey. She’s eighty-one and has Alzheimer’s and, as far as I can tell, she’s on the slow burn. They say a brain with the disease looks a bit like Swiss cheese. Lately, when speaking with her from three thousand miles away, I am beginning to detect more holes than cheese.

The other day, I asked her something I that always do at some point during each of our conversations, “are you loving life?” In her usual upbeat manner she quips, “I hadn’t thought about it, but it’s a good idea!” I continued, chuckling with her, “Feeling healthy these days?” to which she gave me her favorite response, “yoooobetcha!” I tease her, “you’re doing pretty well for someone who is a hundred and fifty years old.” She laughs in that robust, round way that I know so well. I can imagine her mouth wide and open, her eyes sparkling like they do. “How old am I, really?” I return the question, “How old do you think you are, mom?” She ponders for a moment, “Forty, fifty?” “Nope, you’re eighty-one.” We have this same conversation nearly every time we speak. This time she pipes in, “good deal ... I’m still here!”

Harriette Shake, you’re really somethin’ else. I wish Calvin could know you.

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