Is being more important than doing? When I visit my mother, I list the tasks to accomplish for her around the house. It’s a way to help her, a woman who’s staring down her ninetieth birthday – not that she would admit to being old. People call me a doer and sometimes, I’m forced to examine that. I wonder if it’s tied to my self-worth: Is it not enough for me to just be there?
To visit my mom in Richmond, Virginia, I’ve spent the money for air fare and car rental. Maybe it’s to justify the expenditure that I set out to do for her that which she can no longer execute. She’d be just as happy if we sat side by side on the lawn chairs in the driveway, chatting away about family news, or having a good gossip about the neighborhood. And I do enjoy those moments. But I’m also ordering the new mattress and box spring, acquiring the latest safety devices and checking that she has clean linens. My mother urges me to rest, though: She thinks it’s strange that I’m not able to sit still.
We live in an age when groceries, books and laundry can be delivered, Amazon can whisk any whim to our doorstep, dinner is a matter of selecting on-line and then picking it up, and Alexa tracks our every wish. No wonder we’re so attached to our gadgets, it’s as though they understand our needs. The art of physically cooking a meal or hanging a picture is practically over. And with that goes the satisfaction of doing, the gesture of caring. If I make space in my world to fill her wishes then that means she counts. And if walking the walk rather than talking the talk is what matters, then who cares what I say to my phone?