Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Filling the Shoes

This trip back to my childhood home in New Hampshire has been both marvelous and maddening. So far, there's been no rain, and while it's been on the warm side these past couple of days (the official forecast is the infamous "Hazy, Hot, and Humid")...coming from Tallahassee where the humidity in summer is like a thick plate glass wall when you walk outside, this is merely "the warm side". I've had a chance to walk quite a bit...both by myself, and with my family's aging labrador. And it's just been nice to be back in my old stomping grounds.

The maddening side has to do with my reason for being here. The sole purpose of this trip was to move my mom back here to live for an indeterminate amount of time, and sort through my dad's belongings. Going through his clothes, his papers, and his various "things" he's accumulated hasn't been gut-wrenching. I recognize certain pieces here and there as "Oh, that's the tie he used to wear to church," or "I remember this watch". But as far as me feeling sadness at letting go of these "things" that were the attached to my father, I don't really feel it. Because the "things" don't resonate as "him". They were possessions of his, trappings of his, but they don't hold the key to my father. And that father that I knew and loved is so far beyond my reach now that the "things" aren't able to tether him back to me. And for that, I'm grateful.

But there is something rather strange in all the sorting and parceling out and putting aside (which has been physically exhausting): my father's shoes.

Dad's shoes made a distinctive sound on the floors and steps to our house. I always knew when he was coming home because the weight of those leather shoes clomping up the steps to the door sent a mini-seismic wave through the living room. And his shoes were beautiful brown and black leather, and you could tell by looking at the heels which of these pairs was his favorite. As a lark, I slipped on a pair, ones that I remembered him wearing routinely to his office.

They fit.

No way! So I tried on another pair, ones that were a little fancier and also among his favorites.

They fit even better.

So, now I'm feeling a little bit like Cinderella, and wondering how it can be that I can "fill my dad's shoes."?

Without going out of control with that pun, I feel that this might be a tangible message to me that I have, in some ways, filled my dad's shoes. I'm not a lawyer, and don't want to be. I'm not interested in going to auctions, or walking property lines, or any of that. But I do think that my dad had a good heart, and a desire to be of service to people. And he did have a faith in God that I never realized was as important to him as the day he let me know he wanted to go to the Bible study at his assisted living facility, and feared I would go away and leave him if he did. And it's in these ways I would like to think I'm filling his shoes...and walking in his footsteps.

So, I am taking the shoes home, and will fix the heels. Maybe this will be one item that can serve as a touchstone to my dad as I remember him.

No comments: