I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that my Aunt Marian actually knew what she was talking about once in a while.
She dished out advice all the time, in any situation, and she usually had no idea what she was talking about. She loved to toss around words of wisdom that really weren’t even close to being wise. She spoke in cliches, rhymes, and quotations that quite often had no bearing whatsoever on the problem she was trying to solve.
My sisters and I became experts at the hidden eye-roll. There was an art to rolling one’s eyes behind Aunt Marian’s back because she was only one of our four aunts who lived together and did everything else together. If one aunt took up cross-country skiing, all four took up cross-country skiing. If one took up Bridge, all four took up Bridge. If one took a swimming class — well, only two passed the swimming class. Aunt Noni sank like a stone and Aunt Verna stood on the sideline taking bets as to whether Noni would drown or not.
In other words, if one aunt got an eye-roll and look of disgust from a niece, all four aunts took it personally. If we wanted to show our opinion of some ridiculous piece of advice that Marian spouted, we had to do so in such a way that none of the other three caught us.
At any rate, most of Marian’s advice was pretty worthless. But as I get older, one of her frequently-used bits of wisdom is really starting to make sense to me.
It became a standard on a particularly memorable Fourth of July when I was about six years old. It poured that day. I’m not talking about a simple thunderstorm. I’m talking about one of those all-day gullywashers that bring thoughts of Noah to mind. A steady, heavy downpour that showed no signs of stopping as the time for the parade drew near. There was another family staying with us that week, and we argued back and forth over whether to walk to town for the parade or just stay home and stay dry.
Finally, Marian let fly with her particular brand of wisdom. “There are doers in this world, and there are watchers,” she announced. “I’m a doer. Which one are you?”
Of course, we girls were all young enough to draw inspiration from her words. “I’m a watcher!” we all piped up, and off we went.
It was a mile to town, and we were all soaked to the skin by the time we got there. Back in those days, there was a hill leading up to the main street where the parade went through. Now that hill is covered with shops and condominiums and restaurants, but back then, it was delightfully muddy and slippery. We climbed and skidded and rolled and slid up and down that hill for what seemed like forever, and to this day I have no clue if we ever actually saw a parade or not.
We were doers that day, not watchers, and that became one of Marian’s favorite speeches. In her mind, she was some kind of great, fearless adventurer. She later amended her doers vs. watchers speech to include the phrase, “If you want to hang with us, Kid, you’ve gotta learn to sleep on the bench, under the bench, or hanging from the bench!”
In truth, she was a homebody. She talked a big talk about being a doer, not a watcher, but there came a point when she stopped doing. She developed Rheumatoid Arthritis, COPD, and a non-union fracture of her left leg, among other conditions. She was sick; she was sedentary. She rarely left the house except for doctor appointments. But still, she saw herself as a doer, not a watcher, and my sisters and I never quite had the heart to tell her otherwise.
I think of her quite often now, especially as I develop more and more issues with my body since my accident four years ago. I hurt. I hurt all the time. Last week, I turned down a chance to go to the flea market with a friend because I didn’t think I could handle it. This past weekend, I chose to skip our local Octoberfest; I was hurting from the extra hours I’ve been working, and I didn’t think I could walk around the festival all day. Then, yesterday, I almost stayed in the car in the elementary school parking lot at pickup time and trusted my older son to bring his little brother safely out to the car.
For just a moment, it felt like Marian was sitting right there with me in the car. I swear to God I heard her voice speaking right out loud. “There are doers in this world, and there are watchers. Which one are you?”
I am not a watcher, Marian. I am still a doer.
It’s been so easy to give up on things, one at a time. Bit by bit, without even realizing that I had stopped doing. I didn’t make it to the beach this year because I didn’t know if I could walk in the sand. I never took the boys to Full Blast for a day at the water park. I didn’t even make the trip to the flea market in Shipshewana.
Yesterday was kind of a turning point for me. I’m trying to keep my spirits up and stay positive, but life isn’t always cooperating. The changing weather and extra hours on my feet at work are catching up with me, and I have days when even a simple task like showering is almost more than I can physically handle. I want to give up. I want to sit at home and put my feet up and pop some pain pills and tell everyone to go ahead without me; I’ll be fine with a good book while they’re gone.
Some days, I just don’t want to prove to anyone that I can still do my work even though I’m so much slower now. I don’t want to work twice as hard to do half as much, apologizing all the while to those who might resent having to pick up the slack.
But Aunt Marian was right. There are doers in this world and there are watchers, and I refuse to be a watcher.
I’m a doer. Which one are you?
This post has been part of Finish the Sentence Friday, with the sentence starter “I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that. . . ” hosted by Kristi at Finding Ninee and co-hosted by Ivy at Uncharted and Roshni from Indian American Mom.
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