Sometimes no matter how far we have come, a moment occurs when we are blindsided again or subtly reminded that grief does not end. A moment that no matter how hard we try cannot be ignored. A moment that will reoccur again and again until we acknowledge its presence. Or a buried memory that resurfaces, insisting we remember it once more.
Who would have thought shoes could hold such significance?
We were moving for the first time in thirty years. I knew we had a lot of stuff, too much stuff, but I found out how much when I began sorting, giving, saving, and packing. I started three months before we moved and even that was not enough time and I found myself haphazardly throwing leftovers into boxes with no rhyme or reason.
One moment I was going strong and then my hands closed around a pair of shoes I had forgotten about.. It was a pair of old and well worn teenage boys tennis shoes, and I was catapulted back in time.
My son had worn these shoes and many others like them. It seemed like every three months, he needed a new pair. He loved sports so either he wore them out quickly or his feet grew. For some reason unbeknownst to me he always kept his old ones. I thought I had thrown them all out years ago but here in my hands was a whirlwind of memories. Basketball, football, wrestling. Happy times for him and for me seeing him happy.
After he died at 14, I found about six pairs in the bottom of his closet. For some reason, I could not bring myself to throw them out. After the numbness started wearing off and the reality of his death began sinking in, I found a new use for them. When the pain would become too much for me or the anger at the senselessness of his death I would pick up a pair and head to the basement. For a few minutes, I would throw them against the cement block wall, some days crying, some days swearing,. Some days, the only sound was of his shoes hitting the wall.
One day, I knew I didn’t need the shoes anymore and I threw them away except for one pair. This pair. I hadn’t seen them in so many years, I had forgotten all about them. Sitting there shoes in hand, I smiled more than I cried. I looked at the shoes. I looked at the box. I looked at the trash. I wavered. Then I threw the worn-out shoes in the box to go along to our new home, and my heart smiled.