Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Big Boy Shoes

"My wife died five days ago," the Complete and Total Loser's father tells anyone who will listen. 
It's a lie. The Loser, his brothers and his father are two weeks out from her death. It's a forgivable mistake, given that after 59 years of marriage two weeks might as well be five days, but the Loser dislikes it when anyone imparts sad information to get sympathy from strangers.
Grief, to the Loser, isn't some bad substance that lessens when you spread it around. It's a private thing that aches within, and sharing it with others is a sign of weakness. The Loser has always reacted with anger when his father shows such signs. It's important to the Loser that he respect his father. Why would the guy coming to clean up fallen tree branches need to know this? What difference could it make to the woman at the shoe store?
About the shoes. Why are the elderly so stubborn sometimes? The Loser's father has been wearing beat up moccasins for months now. He put on a decent pair of shoes for the funeral a week ago and a pinched nerve burned for days afterward. The Loser kidnapped his father today, driving him to a shoe store after his father voted and insisted that he try on a few pairs. The store specializes in making comfortable shoes and it's where the Loser, a cripple, of course, buys his left shoe every few years. His father fought this the whole time, only grudgingly entering the store.
The woman was nice and used to dealing with the elderly. She listened to the Loser's father, shared her own stories (her husband of 32 years died of an aneurysm two years ago), and let the old man's crankiness roll off. By chance, two other women came in the store at different times and both raved about the shoes there. One, on hearing of his father's nerve problem, urged him to get the widest shoe he could and not, under any circumstance, let a doctor persuade him to seek a surgical solution. He bought a wide pair.
Now the Loser's father is sporting black leather shoes. The closures are Velcro, which makes sense when you're 91 and no longer fond of laces. The Loser slipped the proprietor his debit card and had her ring up the sale as fast as she could. 
The Loser's father carries his late wife's ashes, delivered minutes before, from the kitchen to the bedroom.

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