Every couple of days, my mom calls my grandfather on the phone.

“I’m slicing cucumbers now,” she says in Chinese.

He doesn’t reply. He rarely does.

She tries to keep an upbeat voice. “Can you hear me fine?” She continues to slice her cucumbers, keeping a steady rhythm in her technique. “I’m continuing to slice cucumbers.” The sound of static followed. “Do you like cucumbers? I like cucumbers. Do you like cucumbers?”

I hear some garbling on the other end of the line. Occasionally, my grandfather would generate some one-word replies to whatever question my mom asks. But, like the twisting of empty batteries in a remote control, his replies are an anomaly.

“He seems to be tired,” interrupts nurse on the other end.

My mom sighs. “Okay, let me say goodbye to him then.”

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