My Mom and I recently went on a trip to the beach together. It’s always fun, and quite revealing, when you take a road trip with another person, but especially so when you are held hostage in a car with someone you have known all your life. You just get some of the best and funniest stories. One of the favorites from the last trip goes like this:
Several years ago, when I was a youngster, my Mom had some issues with her feet that drove her to the podiatrist. It was highly likely the damage was caused by wearing spiky high heels to work and everywhere else for years, and probably was made worse by all the dancing she did over the years in those shoes. The doc suggested surgery for her on both feet and while most patients would do one foot, recover, then do the other foot, my Mom, the consummate overachiever (I no longer wonder where I get that attribute myself) decided she would rather have the surgery on both feet and get it over with all at once.
When the surgery was completed successfully and the recovery was launched, the doctor had her come in for a visit to get fitted with “shoes” she could walk in if needed without her feet bending during the recovery process. By necessity, the shoes were made of a flat piece of wood with straps to hold them, much like a sandal, but with no bend or play in them at all. When she walked, it was in a Frankenstein-type manner, and a rather humorous view, to say the least. I was young, but I totally remembered those shoes. My sister and I even tried them on a few times, and almost killed ourselves trying to walk in them.
Christmas time arrived and all the galas and parties and events….and Mom was wearing wooden shoes everywhere. Now my Mom is a social gal, prone to attend events and much like me she is ready at the first “Do you want to go…” that falls from anyone’s lips. So when her ladies’ bunco group planned their annual Christmas party, there was no question Mom would attend. But even more interestingly, when we heard they planned to have a night of music and dancing at a local hang out, it didn’t shock us at all when she told Dad she wanted to go and might be dancing….wooden shoes and all. This was in a day and time when women in a group like this would go, dance, minus their significant others and just have a night of fun out, and my Mom was not gonna miss an opportunity. The other bunco women thought it was crazy for her to think about dancing, given the shoe situation, but she was determined.
My Mom has always looked young for her age, and being a petite brunette with big brown eyes and a classy lady in dress and style, she has always been quite the looker. So it was not surprising she was one of the first of the gaggle of women asked to dance. She accepted the outstretched hand of her prospective partner and as she is walking slowly to the floor she whispers to her partner “I want to tell you before we start dancing, I have on wooden shoes.” He laughed and muttered some kind of funny remark to her and she quickly said “No really I do, I had foot surgery” and she lifts the hem of her long skirt a bit so he can see the weird accessory. She continued ” So I will have to go slow, I think I will be fine and can slow dance, but I understand if you don’t want to dance with me.” The man grinned and said “Sugah, if you had four legs and horseshoes on your feet I’d still want to dance with you!” So they headed out to the floor to give it a whirl. After they started dancing, she was doing quite well, and her partner says “I bet you are a teacher.” People assumed this all the time for some reason, her manner I guess, but she shook her head no and said “But people ask me that all the time.” The man questions “Well, if you aren’t a teacher what do you do?” She never broke a smile and said ” I’m with the rodeo.”
This story came to mind again this morning when I got a message of a past acquaintance’s death. This was the third person in two days who had passed away and I was shocked at each one. The first, a former customer, was found in her home by a family member right before Christmas. She had been gone three days and no one knew. She was a nice lady, but a little odd. When my cleaning staff would arrive at the home in the past, she would have the front door unlocked for them and would retire to the bedroom for the entire time the staff cleaned, as much as 4 hrs. They rarely if ever saw her or had any interaction with her at all. The second was a former high school classmate, beauty queen type, sweet and kind to everyone, a talented dancer and teacher in my area for almost 30 years. She had lung cancer that went into remission then resurfaced into brain cancer. At age 50, it was such a loss to her friends, family and our community. The third was a round dance teacher and cuer, nationally known and beloved by all. She was shot down on the front porch of her home and the details even now are sketchy as to what happened, but the loss is devastating to the community of dancers and her family and friends.
I thought of Mom’s story and wondered of the three people who had lost their lives, who was wearing wooden shoes…
Two lived life right up till the end in the way they loved. They were doing the things that made them happy, spent time with those who made them smile and laugh, never turned down an opportunity to go and see and absorb life and what it had to offer to them. The third, lived much of a hermit existence, regretfully lonely and alone, and I sadly believe her end was not much different than her every day. She had no wooden shoes.
So many times, I have allowed less than perfect situations or circumstances to guide me in truly life altering decisions. Finances may not be quite what I think they should be to go away for a weekend of relaxation that is sorely needed immediately, so I chose to wait rather than just go when I need the getaway the most, and enjoy whatever I could for the amount I had to spend at the time. A person would come into my radar having quirks or weird little oddities in their personality and I would shy away from getting to know them better because they didn’t fit the criterion I had for those I associated with or allowed myself to spend time among. I lost potentially real and deep friendships because I wasn’t willing to step out of my comfort zone and let my guard down. Even now, physical incapabilities of the past might hamper my trying out new challenges or hobbies. I will be the ultimate loser in any and all of these scenarios. How simple the answer is for all of us…just get a pair of wooden shoes, try them on, walk in them a bit, and see our possibilities soar. We might end up with a different kind of odd footprint left behind, but more importantly we will end up with a better life walk in the end. One thing is for sure, it is always more fun to be a part of the rodeo itself than watching from the bleachers. If I am gonna get splinters as I go along anyway, I’d much rather get them in the soles of my feet…