I refuse to take anything for granted now. After a year of a whole lot of not much, I am grateful for so many things. That being said, there are a few routines that I'd prefer to keep up, even though I'm pretty comfortable with our much awaited precautionary in person visits.

Every morning for just about my entire adult life, I called my parents to check in, say hi and just make sure all was well. The conversation always began with my dad answering the phone and after hearing it was me, he'd say, "how are you, how's Ernie, how's your weather, I love you, here's your momma". I still hear that in my heart every day.

It was something that just came naturally to me. As a kid, it started with a daily call to my grandparents shortly before I'd walk to school. The conversations were relatively brief, but always ended with my grandmother's instructions about crossing the five streets from our apartment building in Brooklyn to the big brick elementary school. She repeated the mantra each time; "look both ways, right then left, then up and down", at which point she'd laugh. As a 5-year-old walking with a group to my kindergarten class, I took it a bit more literally than was necessary and I assume the other kids were confused when I followed her explicit directions. Perhaps she was concerned with low flying planes or a speedy centipede crossing my path. Another conversation I choose to recall daily and smile.

When my mom lived here in Brentwood after my dad passed, I'd call her at exactly 7:30 each morning. That conversation replays sweetly in my mind often as I hear her asking, "what's doing?" and my reply of "not much, it's 7:30 in the morning!" I'd laugh, she'd laugh and I got the morning update of her routine. "I'm up, I'm showered, I'm dressed, I've had my cereal and my pills. What about you?" My response as always was "it's 7:40. Not much more than 10 minutes ago." More laughter from both sides of the telephone. I miss those calls.

Now each morning I start my day with a call to my dear friend Karen in Nevada. We've known each other since 1979 and even a state away, we are as close as ever. If I have an early appointment, the time alters but we don't miss a daily conversation for love or money. When she answers, knowing it's me, with a confirming hello, I sing a few lines of a song, replacing one word with her nickname. It never ceases to amuse her and again my day starts off with laughter and smiles. I prop myself up with my pillows, she does the same and we discuss in great detail everything that happened since we spoke the day before. Not everything is earth shattering, but to us, it's all top priority, top secret, extremely important and if we forget something, another call or text that day clears it right up. If we can't recall the name of a show that we enjoyed enough to recommend to the other or where we saw an actor before in the latest movie, it just can't wait until the next day. Priorities are everything!

Grandpa makes it a point to come by and say hi in his comical way while we talk and her husband has been known to yell a warm greeting from across the room on her end. If her dog is awake, I say good morning, but since she arrived after Covid began, she isn't very chatty with me yet. We plan to meet in July.

Most things regarding the pandemic were and still remain awful but I try to put my Pollyanna hat on as often as possible and enjoy the special moments on those phone calls, appreciating the love and kindness that I feel each day. The memories of loved ones who are gone, are resurrected with each conversation with my friend and for that I am very grateful. Knowing those long-awaited hugs are just around the bend is something special to look forward to. That and meeting my four-legged niece, Maizie.

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