As I was driving up the highway to visit my elderly, but spunky, mom at her home in Down East Maine last week, I remembered to turn on the airplane mode in my cellphone settings so that I wouldn’t accumulate roaming charges. My service provider thinks I’m in Canada and would apply international charges if I made a call. But I can’t make a call or send a text when I visit there.

Being unplugged for a few days isn’t so bad. In fact, it can be quite refreshing. Spending time with my mother is precious, so there’s no desire to be on the phone anyway. We sit face to face at her kitchen table eating meals together, talking about her house, her health, and her future. She gives me advice about the crocheting projects I’ve started and shares her delicious potato salad recipe. She fills me in on the people in town who I knew when I was younger, and I tell her about people she knows in southern Maine.

After eating our breakfast, we walk out to her lovely little garden and inspect her colorful plants. She tells me what she knows about them and is thrilled with their daily progress. Having no children, pets or husband left at home to care for, my mom enjoys nurturing her plants. She also wonders and worries about the dead branches on her large tree that overhang a neighbor’s driveway.

We walk down the street to her church where she wants to hang a heavily framed picture on the back wall. We bring some tools and get the job done. She admires the shadowbox we made containing pictures and artifacts belonging to her beloved, recently deceased brother, who spent his life serving God and others.

As this summer afternoon fades away, we drive a few miles out of town to visit my sister, who is looking forward to a well-deserved retirement from the busy job she has held most of her working career. Down near the water, in her backyard, she has arranged her Adirondack chair in the sun for herself and a few lawn chairs in the shade for Mom and me. A small table between us holds drinks and snacks.

Sitting together and enjoying the breeze off the water, we all jump up to get a better view of the mother duck and her brood of ducklings as they meander by. The surroundings are peaceful and quiet on this pre-holiday afternoon with no loud boats or fireworks disturbing us. Before our departure, we witness the bright orange setting sun, a tranquil end to our family gathering.

Getting away from those ubiquitous electronic devices temporarily reminds us that there is much more to life than what can be seen or read on a screen. Oh sure, they are important, sometimes even necessary, but nothing can replace the satisfaction of truly being present with our loved ones.