by Ana L. Palles
I remember playing in the living room of our one bedroom New York City apartment and looking over at my dad tracing the shape of his shoe onto a stiff, dark grey piece of cardboard. It was a slightly darker shade of grey than the clouds that enveloped the city during the early months of the year. I had just turned six and curiously wondered what interesting art project my dad was doing.
It caught my attention because my dad never seemed interested in drawing before. I periodically looked over at him sitting on the edge of the couch. He diligently cut out the shoe shapes using my mother’s heavy scissors. Carefully rounding several edges, he trimmed the cardboard then held it up and slid it into his shoe to check the fit. After a few adjustments, he’d pull out the cardboard for the next round of trimming.
I saw him do this several times during our stay in New York. Never giving much thought to his little ritual of cutting out cardboard shoe shapes and fitting them inside his shoes, I thought this was just something grownups did. It wasn’t until I decided to play with his shoes one day that I saw the holes in the bottoms of the soles.
I flipped the shoes over and examined them by poking my finger in the hole. I’d scratch at the cardboard through the hole with my index fingernail and thought it was funny that I could make the cardboard pop up inside the shoe.
Sometimes children take things at face value without question. For whatever reason, it simply didn’t occur to me that my dad needed new shoes. Once I understood this I was shocked that my dad was walking to work, crossing the rivers of slush that ran down the New York City curbs. It was hard to avoid the icy water when crossing those old New York City streets and it was clear that my dad had to have been extremely cold. And yet, my sister and I always had sturdy shoes and new winter boots with the furry lining inside to keep us warm.
My Dad never complained.
Dads can be like that. I know of several dads who would drive around in old cars, where the heating and air conditioning were iffy at best, and yet, they bought nice vehicles for their wives and kids. There was never any resentment or jealousy, instead there was satisfaction that they had provided their families with something nice.
And I have experienced a number of men giving up their jackets and gloves to keep a woman or a child warm. In fact, many of the men who have touched my life take self sacrifice and gentlemanly manners in stride. It’s just what they do.
So often, we take these thoughtful gestures for granted. They become a normal backdrop to the daily distractions that absorb our attention. And so on Father’s Day, I like to spend some time with prayers of gratitude to all the men who have been a part of my life. Whether in the role of father, brother, uncle, granddad, friend or spouse, I send a little gratitude blessing to each one.
And to our dad, who sacrificed so much so that he could make our lives easier, may I walk a mile in your shoes, the ones with the cardboard liners, and refresh myself with the true meaning of love.