In Which I Learn The Power of Simply Being There

Dawn in D.C.

It was a short, strange trip.

A friend’s mother died after a nasty illness. My friend was, as you would expect, not happy. I went to DC in order to provide moral support during the funeral mass. I flew up. Stayed with her for three days. Went home. That was it.

You have to understand, I plan my trips down to the finest detail. Not just attractions that require tickets. Where we will eat. When we will eat. What there is to do while traveling between attraction A and restaurant B. I don’t want to waste my limited vacation time. I live in fear of being in New York, Paris, Central Ohio, and sitting around the hotel room say, ‘Whadda you wanna do? I dunno, whadda you wanna do.’

You would have to ask my travel companions, but I like to think I’m flexible about plans once they are made. Nothing is set in stone. I’m up for something better, something different, something drier, warmer, cooler. As long as we avoid the dreaded hotel room scenario.

So I plan.

Except this time.

For this trip, my entire schedule was to show up at my friend’s apartment and follow her around for the weekend like a stray dog. I didn’t rent a car. Downtown DC has low parking availability and high parking fines. I went were she went. I stayed in when she stayed in.

I didn’t actually do anything. A bit of off-the-cuff ushering before the service. A morning coffee run. The logistics had been sorted. There was enough family swirling around to take care of overlooked details. I was there with the sympathetic word, or more likely, the amusing comment. Play to your strengths.

I didn’t do anything. I have family in DC. Didn’t see them. I have friends in DC. I didn’t see them, unless they were involved in this event. My friend lives a short walk from the Textile Museum. Didn’t get to stick my snoot in the door. Despite the constraints, I did manage to buy a few books. I’m still me. I squeezed in a few minutes at Bridge Street Books while my friend was resting [Purchases]. We also passed enough horse art for me to make a blog post [Equines of DC].

Mostly, I sat on the couch. I read books. I did crossword puzzles on my phone. We watched TV, but not as much as you’d think. 57 channels and nothing on. Neither did we do much talking, which is usually my superpower. We mostly occupied ourselves while sitting in companionable silence. Which I can do. In extreme circumstances.

I don’t begrudge a second of it. That’s why I was there. But it made for a much different travel experience than I usually have.

I helped. Even I, with my ability to second-guess myself, could tell. Some people want to be left alone. Some people want a sympathetic ear. Some people want to be amused. As I said above, I can do sympathy, but I am much better at perky distraction. Although the perky was fairly well dialed down on this occasion. Just being around, adding my energy to the situation, helped.

Searching For the Positives
Throwing myself into the role of faithful sidekick allowed me to be present without thinking too deeply about the existentialist implications of why I was there. Something happening to my own mother? Pffft. Moving on. Nor do faithful sidekicks think too hard about where they find themselves. Rigorous compartmentalization allowed me to overlook the fact that my last visit to DC was for the events surrounding my father’s sudden passing 11 years ago. You say Emotional Repression like it’s a bad thing.

It wasn’t all dread news. We went out for several meals, including the tasting menu at Jaleo. We hung out with friends from high school. That’s 40 years, folks. I was proud of us. The downside of hanging with classmates from the Class of 1980 is that many of them are talking about retirement. I am not ready to admit to being that old.

You Can’t Take Me Anywhere
Funeral. That’s a formal occasion, right? I needed something other than jods or cargo pants. Okay, I can do this. Black pants. Check. I knew they were good to go because that’s what I wear to award banquets. Shirt? I wasn’t immediate family, so all black would have been overdone. Purple is a mourning color, right? I have – who knows where I got it – a nicely fitted, pretty, light purple cotton shirt. That’ll do. Come the day, it was a bit more colorful than I intended, but I was in a back row, so I hope it wasn’t too much of a standout.

That wasn’t the problem.

With all this quiet understatement, I decided to wear a pair of my lively boot sox for balance. (Zocks, I have half-a-dozen pairs.) No one would see them under my pants. Right? Well. I was wearing heels. (!) I neglected to take into account that pumps are designed to show off the top of one’s foot. Or in this case, one’s highly-patterned, bright purple socks.


I discovered this as we got ready for the service. I couldn’t let my friend see this. She thinks my wardrobe is appalling. (She’s right.) In the general course of things, she is more likely to sneer at a fashion faux pas than be amused by the levity. This was not the general course of things. I did not want to give her a reason to be upset. Well, any more reasons to be upset. She had plenty of them at the moment. No time to run out for hose. I settled my pants as low as they would go and tried to keep my feet underneath me.

Sigh. I can’t even dress myself.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

8 thoughts on “In Which I Learn The Power of Simply Being There

  1. Iโ€™m glad youโ€™re back safely & it was so incredible for you to go support your friend- I am sure she appreciated it more than you know.! And dressing artsy is not a crime!๐Ÿ˜Š

  2. That was a good thing to do. Simply Being There is such a wonderful gift. Everything else pales beside that generous expression of caring.

  3. The purple socks are perfectly fine. What is important is being there. It would be wonderful to see you in person again. Please do not reserve your trips to the nation’s capitol for only sad events. Horses are beautiful and life takes up so much of our time , just remember you have people up here who love you very much.
    Besides , If you do not come to visit us ….. We will show up at your door step ! Tee, Hee, Hee

  4. I canโ€™t tell you how much it meant to me. You took it all in stride and mommied me when I needed it. As for the socks… actually they just made me smile. They still do.

  5. Yay for being such a good friend! And look, Adri is on your blog!!!! Welcome ๐Ÿ™‚
    I never understood about the just being there 20 years ago. I’d stop by to see my parents and we would all just sit around and read and then I’d leave and I’d wonder why I’d bothered. But they were always so happy that I came. But I understand it a whole lot better now….the being is really important. You put your time and energy into showing up and being whatever she needed. That’s huge. And I loved the outfit and the socks.

    Maybe there can be a future DC trip where I take antihistimines ๐Ÿ˜‰ and we find some fun things to do for a day or 2 despite your comparison of DC to cities you find more dynamic. And we can hang with some more 40 year plus friends.

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