Don’t pick up the shoes.
I saw a Facebook post today on a page called Alabama News and Comment. It’s a page from the news division of Alabama’s Radio Station, 101.9 Fox-FM. It appears to be a station out of Birmingham. Don’t ask me how I got to the page, because I have no idea. It was one of many squirrels my brain chased today. And this time, I ended up on Alabama News and Comment, reading a piece about a woman picking up her husband’s shoes. You can see it on Facebook here.
My husband picks up his own shoes, so I don’t think I have ever had to pick them up for him, but it made me think of my parents.
My parents were married for 45 years before my Daddy died. He was young, just 68, and died of pancreatic cancer. Many times, though, during his retirement years, he would take off his shoes in the living room and leave them underneath the coffee table. I’m guessing he usually carried his own shoes to the closet, but it was something I never gave any attention at the time.
And then, in 2006, Daddy died.
We did what families do. We supported each other for a few days, and then my little family returned to Charlotte to resume our lives. We settled back into real life. About a month later, I decided we needed to go visit Mother; she’d had time to rest and recuperate after months of caring for Daddy, and I thought she needed company.
Upon arrival at my parents’ home, I saw Mother standing outside waiting for us, but I didn’t see Daddy. Of course, I didn’t see him, because he had passed away a month before, but his absence hit me hard. I got out of the car with tears streaming down my face, and Mother said, “I should have warned you how difficult your first visit back would be…your first visit without him here.” She knew, because she had lost her own Daddy. It had never occurred to me how the absence of Daddy would take my breath away. But it did.
We all went inside and sat down in the living room, and that’s when I saw Daddy’s shoes under the coffee table. I looked at them, and I looked at Mother. Her eyes met mine. I didn’t even have to say anything. She simply said, “I can’t move them.” I cried again, but I understood. Seeing those shoes where Daddy left them likely made her feel a little like he was still there. It was a small way of tricking her brain into feeling like Daddy was still there…a comfort. As I read the piece on Facebook today, my brain went straight to that time, and I thought, “One day you might want to see his shoes in the living room.”
Life is like that. Sometimes the things we never think we will miss are the very things we miss…or even the things we find comfort in. When our daughter was a toddler and didn’t sleep well, many times I would have to go upstairs and lie down with her. My husband and I shared a doctor at the time (a mistake I won’t make again in this lifetime), and when he was at the doctor, he mentioned it in passing to “our” doctor. The next time I was there, she opted to lecture me about how bad that was for me and for our daughter. It angered me greatly, because frankly, I thought it was none of her business, and soon thereafter, I found another doctor. What did I know that the doctor didn’t know? I knew we all parent differently, and I knew myself far better than she knew me. I knew, in my infinite wisdom, that one day, I would be sad when my daughter didn’t want me around as much. Was it a little inconvenient for me to spend a half hour upstairs helping our daughter get to sleep? Yes, but I loved every minute. And guess what…she’s a freshman in college now who doesn’t need me to help her get to sleep. *Many times, I have wondered what kind of communication that doctor has with her own children…if she has the same great relationship with hers that I have with mine. I actually feel sorry for her and for her children. I know mine trusts me, and some of that trust might just go back to those nights she needed me to be there while she fell asleep.*
If my daddy’s death taught me anything, it taught me that life is not a dress rehearsal. We have to live now and enjoy the little things. When our daughter was a toddler, I would pick her up and carry her in my arms any time she wanted. My friend, Jennifer, and I believed (since we had only children) we should do that, because one day we wouldn’t get to carry them anymore. We wouldn’t know when it was the last time, so we did it every time. No, I don’t remember the last time I carried her, but I know I carried her on my back multiple times after she became too heavy to carry in my arms. And if she asked me to carry her today (she’s 19), I would. You can bet on that.
And as much as it annoys me that my husband can’t resist the urge to open the curtains on the window on my side of the bed, I know that, if something happened to him, I’d likely miss having to go close those curtains when my side of the room starts to heat up from the sunlight.
Enjoy the little things…even the little annoyances.