In His Boots
The mementos we hold on to, heirlooms we choose not to discard and throw away.
All the traditional, routine ways we try to live inside the memory of someone, some one precious, beloved. To feel them near in the physical awhile longer can seem foolish and nonsensical.
It’s ridiculous to think an oversized, outdated, uncomfortable pair of black boots with fleece lining and thick rubber soles hold any value, and yet.
I wear my father’s boots when I head out to walk the dog. It’s crazy, they’re too big and my heels slip and slide trying to find solid footing on shaky ground. It doesn’t matter. I’m not trying to be practical, or looking for some mystical answer or hidden treasure. The cold air smashes against my ankles and makes my toes curl. I don’t care; I like the deep freeze against my skin. The winter frost reminds me I am indeed breathing as snow creeps in and drips down my exposed limb. I suppose I could double up woolen socks, try to fill the void. Why would I? I tried that once, my feet felt cramped and uncomfortable screaming for some space and air.
To feel the empty, sit in the hollow spaces he once filled effortlessly makes perfect sense.
I don’t want to box up the boots, stow them in a back closet or even gift them away. I want to remove the black boots with zippers on both sides from the shelf each winter, and grin. Another season to make new memories together, him and me.
I will carefully set them aside for when the inevitable seasons change again, and wait for spring. I want something to look forward to.
His smile fades as time and distance creates a vacuum, the gaping, fuzzy recollection plays tricks on the mind.
Was it a false memory?
Did I pile into the back of his rusted, pickup truck for Blackberry ice cream on many a summer’s eve? Did we giggle and laugh until we peed our pants from the smell of horseshit? Did he lift me up on his shoulders every chance he got? Did his eyes beam each time he looked at me?
Did I hear the snores while he slept on the floor beside me when I was fevered? Did he count laps as I swam lifting my head from the water peeking to make sure he was exactly where I left him? I still do that sometimes, turn my head to the side expecting to see him instead of an empty chair. My reflexes and muscle memory are still intact.
Were there tears in his eyes the first time I left home and the last time we said goodbye? Goodbye for now, not forever.
Did he love me?
That, I don’t doubt. I don’t need a faded memory to feel his love in my bones and smiling under my skin. His grin is the brightest, fondest memory I hold. My heart and his are forever entwined.
Still, doesn’t make the missing any easier.
I wear his boots and trip sometimes.
That makes me smile, on the inside.
This is Beautiful! It made me think of my dad and how much I miss him. I know too that “My heart and his are forever entwined.”
Thank you, Lori.
I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece and hope it brought a smile to your face.
The missing never goes away, yet somehow through the memories and silly momentos we keep our loved one close.
Thinking of you, and your dad.
This is such a moving post, Jackie. I especially love the last two lines. And what a cool way to feel closer to your dad. The only wearable thing of my dad’s that I kept after he died is a white cap he used to wear a lot. It’s in one of my drawers and I think of him every time I see it. I wish I had the guts to wear it, but I don’t know 🙂
Thank you, dear Mary.
I’m sorry to hear about about your dad.
I bet he was a super sharp guy if he wore a white cap. 🙂
We didn’t keep much after my dad died either.
His boots were in the basement and he passed in May.
We simply forgot about them.
When I moved back home a year later, there they were waiting.
I wear them and feel closer to him. A way to keep the connection alive, I suppose.
We have spoken about the highway, halfway mark before and how difficult it is to have an aging parent, and to lose them.
Grief comes in waves, riptides and tidal pools at any age.
Gotta ride it out…
Sending you a hug, Mary.
I bet if you wore your father’s cap even around the house it would make you, and him smile.
And yet… Oh, he loved you all right, Jackie. That’s clear. Sleeping by your bed during a fever, carrying you on his shoulders, and counting those boring laps without moving? But mostly that beam of love and the tears when you said goodbye. Yes to wearing his boots for as long as you want to. Yes to standing in his shoes. He’s no longer out there in the same way he was, but he and his loving qualities (and maybe a few you don’t love) are more a part of you than ever..
After the death of my dad when I was 14 and the death of my husband (a man with many of the qualities I loved in my dad), their inner presence makes me stronger. I believe we get to keep the love because we’re willing to face the heart-break of grief.
I’m blown away by this post, Jackie. Thank you for being straight up with your visceral truth of love and loss.
Elaine, thank you so much, I wonder, I grapple, I have an overwhelming desire to understand death. Perhaps befriend the concept of death in some small way so that the pain of living and loss becomes part of the joy in loving someone and losing them to the ether. I am forever looking for the signs…I’ve read some of your gut wrenching and gorgeous essays on grief and they are beautiful. I’m truly humbled by your comment. Maybe your dad, husband and my father are somewhere laughing as we try to sort through the messiness of life. I hope so…that would be something nice to hold on to. Owning my truths seems to be the only thing tangible thing to grasp… so I’ll keep walking and tripping, and jotting it down.