My friend Terri Rilea, recently wrote a wonderful tribute to her father and family. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I asked her if I could share it with all of you. It is such a touching piece of writing that in some way relates to all of us. It is amazing how certain smells, songs and sometimes even shoes can bring back the best memories…reminding us to be truly thankful. I hope you enjoy.
It was one of the first few days that Dad had been admitted into the care facility when I took notice…
Mark and I were visiting Dad when, at different times, my brothers Tim and Dave would visit. The light from the window filtered in the room and for the first time in my life, I saw my Dad by way of my brothers. It wasn’t so much the look on their faces or the way each moved his head when he spoke. That part was obvious. They definitely share in that look. It wasn’t even in the exact same way Dave or Tim position their mouth or hands and feet. The two appear just like Dad as he does while sifting through the newspaper. Because of my brothers, I saw Dad in a natural light. I saw him in the way the daylight danced off of silver streaks of hair and in the gleam of their eyes and the positioning of his heart. What stood out as much as all the other similarities were the shoes. Dave was wearing a brown pair of worn work shoes that he had self-mended and Tim was wearing a pair of work boots that were speckled with flecks of white paint. The shoes look vaguely familiar, I thought. I kept looking down at the shoes and then at Dad and then Dave and then back to Tim’s face and back to the shoes. Was I the only one in that room that caught this family link through shoes?
Their shoes tell the story of true laborers. They tell a story of love. The story of a beloved husband and father. “A little giant” resting beneath a weeping willow tree sharing in a song with his kids. It’s the story of working in a hot and sticky tire factory and of the stench of burning rubber and black tar stained t-shirts. A black metal lunch box packed with memories. The story of layoffs and strikes. These shoes tell the story of a painter. Stories of Sunday Mass and Sunday drives and road tripping to McDonald’s. Shoes that made Saturday night trips in to town for maple-bun-candy bars. They tell the story of calloused hands from garden growing, tree planting, wood chopping and carpentry. Stories of so much sacrifice. The story of shoes that made you believe in Santa! The story of several toddlers that tried to walk in that one pair of shoes. Disappointment and forgiveness. Stories of a real giver. A true provider. Stories of hope and healing. The repairer of many things. By looking at the shoes of my brothers, I lovingly remember my Father’s shoes. Shoes filled with the stories of our lives. These shoes that have known many difficult roads. The shoes that still teach many life lessons and leave for me a proud path of foot prints to follow. My Dad’s shoes. The shoes that contain the soul of our family …the shoes that have always been filled with love.