In honor of what would have been my mother-in-law’s 98th birthday, a shoe story comes to mind.
About 2 years ago, Marie got very, very ill. She was in intensive care for a few weeks. Between an infection in her big toe and dangerously low body temperature, she was in a precarious place. The conversation vacillated between surgery to remove her toe, foot or part of her leg and just seeing how she would fare at 96 years old. (I know, when does this get funny?)
She miraculously recovered with the help of a ‘bear hug’ which is like super groovy bubble wrap that keeps you warm and brings up your body temp. And in other news, her toe took care of itself by just falling off. I know, it’s gross and horrible, but it was just the tippy, tip tip of her toe and the infection was then completely out of her system.
Because walking was kind of weird now, Marie had to wear special surgical shoes and regain control of her balance. She was hustled home from the hospital with peculiar shoes and instructions for physical therapy.
Her first day home, I visited her during therapy and she was quite agile and perky. I returned the next day and since it was a weekend, there was no therapy. Sitting in her chair, she was wearing her favorite sneakers.
“Oh, no, no, Marie, that will not do,” I said. “You need to wear the other shoes until your foot is healed and you can walk properly.”
“What other shoes?” she said. “These are my shoes.”
I wasn’t born yesterday. In five minutes, I was hauling out the ugly, black orthopedic surgical shoes that were somehow conveniently stuffed way in the back of her closet behind suitcases and Depends packages, I displayed to her the offending footwear.
“This is what you need to wear while your foot heals.”
“Ugh,” she muttered.
Two days later, I moseyed back to the therapy room and there she ambled in the ugly shoes, but her pristine sneakers sat lovingly next to the walker waiting to be put back on Cinderella’s pining feet.
The therapist took me aside.
“She insisted on wearing her real shoes, except in therapy. It’s really not good for healing or balance. Maybe you can talk to her.”
I devised a different plan. Whilst she meandered all around the therapy room, I snatched the glass slippers like an ugly step-sister and hid them deep in the therapy room closet.
I was well versed in diversion by now and spirited her so quickly to lunch after therapy that she forgot about those sneakers. After lunch we strolled outside and then I settled her in her favorite chair for a post-repast siesta.
For the next four weeks, every time I visited Marie, she asked me the same question:
“Where did Rachel put my shoes?”
Rachel is my daughter. She had been known to play a practical joke or two on Grandma over the years. When she was a youngster, Rachel would steal Grandma’s refrigerator magnets and return them a few weeks later. One time she asked Grandma if it was ok to ‘look’ at Grandma’s costume jewelry. That Easter, Grandma admired her own necklace around Rachel’s neck. However, at the time of this shoe incident, Rachel was firmly ensconced in graduate school in Ireland.
“Rachel, did not take your shoes, Marie. You have to wear these other ones to get better.”
“Yes, she did. Tell her I want them back.”
Simultaneously with her complete recovery, Rachel came home for a visit. When she came to see Grandma, there she was holding the shoes out like Prince Charming. What the heck….whatever works when you’re a caregiver.
“You just have to Laugh….”