I was sitting with Rosalie the other day. She was coughing with this cold that has made its rounds to everyone, it seems. She was perky, though, up for passing the time together. We made some small talk. News. Weather. Recent dreams. While we talked, I kept hearing a squeaky noise. It came right from her chair, which she was sitting in, legs raised, looking pretty comfortable. Una was on the couch, nearby.
“Do you hear that, Una?”
“Yes, earlier today I heard that squeak and I wondered, ‘What is that sound?’”
I thought it must be Rosalie, but it couldn’t be. It was too loud. That would mean she was really sick! Rosalie is 98, so we keep a close eye on her.
I got up from the rocking chair I had been sitting in and sidled up to her big auto-recliner. I leaned over her, bending my head into her chest area. She had on her holey, old, green sweater. A new, lavender shawl was draped over her shoulders. A beige, heavy-weave wool lap-blanket was spread over her abdomen and legs. I moved in slowly, bending at the waist, listening. Closer and closer I drew my hearing toward her, until my left ear was a mere few inches above her chest, and I stayed there.
“What are you doing!” she burst out. “You’re invading my space!”
I pulled back. She had a grin across her face and sparkles in her eyes.
I leaned in again. “Be quiet, Mom. I’m listening.”
“Listening to what?!”
I didn’t want to ask her if she was wheezing. She probably couldn’t hear it inside of herself, anyway, especially with hearing aids confusing everything.
Then, I heard the squeak, again. It sounded like metal rubbing on metal. It seemed to come from two places at the same time, right in and about her chair.
“SHH!!!” I kept my position, bent over Rosalie. I watched the cat eyeing her lap. It wanted up and I was in the way. “The cat wants to take a nap in your lap, Mom.”
“It always does,” she sighed, and spontaneously she took a deep breath. Una and I looked at each other. We both heard the squeak, loud and clear. It came from Rosalie’s lungs. No doubt about it.
“Mom, you sound like the Tin Man in the Land of OZ.” Rosalie gave me a look like she enjoyed how ridiculous I was. “You’re squeaking, right inside your chest!”
“Oh, MY! Where’s my oil can!” (Truth be told, we had just watched the Wizard of Oz a couple of days before.)
“And you over there, you’re like Cowardly Lion.” I have no explanation for having said that to Una, but it seemed to be inclusive. Una has been Rosalie’s caregiver for a good length of time. “That makes me the Scare Crow,” I continued. “You know, the one without a brain!”
Rosalie was really laughing now, more laughter than squeaks. We were having fun. A good test of health. We couldn’t control or predict the squeaks, and Rosalie did not seem distressed, so for the time being, as long as we were all enjoying ourselves, we just kept on it. We decided to give my son, Paul, a call, just to do something, and share our good mood with him. He answered immediately. We put him on speaker so Rosalie and I could both talk. He was driving home from his work at the base in Fayetteville, N.C. “It’s a good time to share a conversation,” he assured us, and that he’d pay attention to his driving.
It may be that the nature of a good sharing is that it turns into something bigger. It did on this day. It just grew. While Rosalie and I talked with Paul about his snowy trip to West Virginia, my sister Sylvia called from Colville, Washington. So we merged the calls. “Hi, Mom,” she sang out to Rosalie. Sylvia was surprised that Paul was on the phone, too, but was immediately excited to talk to him – a rare chance for them. She asked him all kinds of questions while Rosalie and I just listened a lot.
After a few minutes, my husband called. Ron wanted to tell me about his building adventures and the arrival of a special delivery package. So, we merged him in to the conversation as well.
“Hi Dad!” Paul greeted him.
“Hi Ron!” Sylvia joined in.
They all began to talk together.
“Mom, this is like a party!” I said to Rosalie, pulling my phone aside so the other three wouldn’t be interrupted by our side conversation.
“Yeah!” Rosalie’s voice was melodic, like the robins and finches that show up at her bird feeders. “It’s an old-fashioned party-line!” she chirped. Her eye brows moved up and down, the pleasure of it all exuding through her open smile. I brought the phone back near to our voices. Rosalie took the phone into her hands and pronounced carefully into the phone, “This is like an old-fashioned party-line!” Everyone stopped talking.
“What, Mom?” Sylvia asked.
“What did you say, Gramma?” Paul wanted to know, too.
Rosalie gladly repeated herself. “This is like an old-fashioned party-line!” Everyone giggled. She said it one more time, just to make sure everyone had a good chance to laugh at her joke. (If you don’t know what a party-line was in the early days of telephones, look it up: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Party_line_(telephony))
Earlier in this party-line call, I had asked Sylvia to start a Facebook page for Rosalie so that she could get responses from family on pictures and posts. Paul offered to do it, assuring Sylvia that it was easy enough. He’d make it a private group page. Sylvia was glad to know there would be some security if she posted art work. But we had stopped talking about the endeavor when Ron merged in. The topic of conversation was flowing pretty rapidly.
Ron never really got a chance to tell us much about his copper sinks that had arrived. He was eager to go back to his work, anyway, so we let him peel away from the call. His hanging up prompted Sylvia to start her goodbyes. “I’ll be looking forward to the Facebook group page, Paul.”
“Oh! It’s done! At least it’s begun. I did it here, while we all talked.”
“What do you mean???” we all asked him at once. “You’re driving!”
“Well, I’m at home now, in the car. I guess you could say I’ve been having a driveway moment – such a great conversation! I’ve set up the Facebook page using my phone. And my phone is operating off of the car’s system. Anyway, the group page is all ready to go!”
“How do I join?” Sylvia’s voice had the energy of a kid getting a chance to ride a pony at the county fair.
“Accept the invitation when you see it.”
Sylvia gave us all her love and said goodbye, leaving Rosalie, Paul and me to finish up the conversation. “Well, Paul, this is the second-best thing to seeing you in person!” Rosalie told her grandson.
“Yeah, we should do this more often,” he replied.
“Before we all go, Paul, is there anything I can do for you?” I asked. “Anything we can help you with there on the east coast from California?”
“Just say YES when you get the invite to the group.”
“Will do. Ciao, buddy.”
“Bye, Gramma. Bye, Mom.”
All during the conversation, Rosalie had not coughed or squeaked, not that I noticed, anyway. We’d all forgotten about it. But Rosalie was ready to wet her throat now. Una went to make her some lemon tea. She was going to melt a cough drop into the tea. “It will help her a lot.”
Waiting for the tea, Rosalie nibbled at some pomegranate seeds and called to the cat to come sit in her lap. Sitting quietly now, her lungs squeaked a few times. Each side of her chest seemed to produce a slightly different pitch, thus the metallic sound. If only there really were an oil can. The talking had been good for the squeak, apparently. It kept all of us breathing deeply and laughing. The Facebook group would be good, too.
Gathering my things to go back to my house and check out Ron’s copper sinks, I got a ding on my phone. I looked. My text window read: “You’ve been invited to join the FB Group Rosalie’s House.” Already! It had only been an hour ago we began the conversation.
“I’m heading out, Mom. Una’s getting you tea. You going to be alright?”
“There’s nothing wrong with me! I have a little cold, that’s all.” Her usual attitude. “Go home.” She waved me out the door into the mid-afternoon sun.