My friend’s mother was dying in her living room. I knew that but I didn’t.
She’d told me her mother was terminally ill but it never really sank in. Oh, that’s why you brought her across the country and set up a hospital bed in your living room. I get it now.
My friend told me this on a long walk with our dogs. No one asks how I am doing, she said. No one visits. No one ever brings food for us.
So that night I made a pot roast with potatoes and carrots and onions and I took it to my friend’s door. You’re the only person who brought us dinner, she said A few days later, her mother died.
At work, a colleague’s wife faced a new wave of cancer. He sat in my office and complained that every night they went out to dinner. It was expensive and exhausting, he said. So I made roast chicken and potatoes and brought it to their house, the roasting pan covered in layers of tin foil. I had to wear oven mitts to bring it from my car.
He brought the pan back to me a few days later, scrubbed clean. In the intervening days, I’d worried that my roast chicken and potatoes had been found wanting. I imagined that they’d tossed it in the garbage and gone out to dinner. What I offered seemed so ‘rustic’ compared to what one could get in a fine restaurant. I flooded myself with embarrassment.
Years later, after his wife died, my colleague mentioned that I was the only person who had ever brought them dinner when she was ill. I wanted him to say, it was delicious! but he just noted that I’d done it, that was the feat, just showing up.
It is not nothing, showing up. It takes some nerve. I speak from experience having to, first, believe in my pot roast, and, second, believe in my roast chicken. I am not a great cook so this belief doesn’t come easy.
I brought dinner to sick people wearing my red oven mitts. And I thought to myself, please just take this and put it on the counter in your kitchen and remember that I showed up. With all my shortcomings and wrong things, the too tough pot roast, the overdone chicken. I showed up. Love me for that.
Photo: Martins Zemlickis