It was the shoes. My daddy’s shoes. My daddy, with a painful wound on his leg, couldn’t get his shoes on by himself. So I got down on the floor and helped him put them on. I tugged and he pushed and we both laughed as we struggled, but finally his shoes were on and I tied them. And that’s when it struck me…..I had done this exact same thing a few hours earlier with two grandboys. The similarities took my breath away.
Of course the boys were a bit more of a handful. I practically had to put them in a headlock to wrangle those little shoes onto their sweet feet. The youngest especially. He is in perpetual motion these days and the entire process of getting him dressed leaves me in a sweat. He particularly likes a good game of chase, him in his diaper and me clutching little socks and pants, begging him to please come to NeaNea. The older one is slightly less challenging, having entered a stage of “I’ll do it myself.” But shoes are still a tough one, requiring an adult hand to help push them on his feet. This after a lengthy discussion of WHICH shoes he will ALLOW on his feet that day.
Thankfully, Daddy didn’t require any wrangling. This latest fall and subsequent injury has left him fairly passive, at least physically. Verbally, he’s still his same feisty self, just a little more confused. His dementia is a slow, hazy fog that is creeping ever-steadily over his life, but he can still challenge me when I’m giving orders (as he puts it). And right now, just to rile me up, he loves to tell others, like doctors and nurses, that he plans to finish the construction of the deck that was the reason for his nasty wound. He thinks it’s funny, but I know he might actually try. The dementia will allow him to believe that he’s perfectly capable of lifting heavy lumber and nailing it all together in his backyard. He leaves me frustrated on a daily basis.
And yet, I was humbled by the act of tying his shoes. Here was the man who raised me, who commanded my devotion and respect. This is the man who built the house I grew up in. This man is a retired police officer. This man umpired baseball and refereed football on the side to put me through college. This man, my father, has always been the picture of a strong Texas man. And here I was tying his shoes…and I realized two things. One, I should feel privileged to not only tie my daddy’s shoes, but to also tie my grandsons’ shoes. Two, this privilege will be fleeting. No matter how exhausting and how frustrating these simple acts can be, I will miss them when this season has passed. I will mourn this small act of love. I am a daughter and a grandmother in the season of shoes.