In His Shoesby Samantha Evans on 12/14/19
"What about this pair?" Clint shoved his tablet inches from my face, expecting my approval of the 100th pair of dress shoes he'd scrutinized online.
I dropped my novel in resignation. The library's plastic cover crinkled in disgust with my inability to finish more than three pages.
I don't care about your damn shoes. You're a grown man. Choose whatever shoes you want.
Mustering gentleness, I glanced at his screen. "Yes, that pair looks excellent."
"You barely looked."
"Clinnnnnnt." His name emerged from my clenched lips like a feral growl.
"Okay, fine. I'll let you read your book."
Several days later, Clint's slick, brown dress shoes arrived in the mail. "It's like walking on a cloud, Sam."
My eyes rolled involuntarily. Heaven help me. "I'm so glad."
Three days later, he left for work, still floating around with his size 13 cloud shoes on his feet and an idiotic grin on his face.
Later that night, when he’d returned from work, I tripped on his shoes—they ate up most of the entryway real estate—and glared at the floor, a curse on the tip of my tongue.
Any words I possessed, whether good or bad, evaporated instantly.
I sighed. Did he...? I smiled and shook my head. Because I was not looking at slick, new dress shoes. I’d tripped on ratty, frayed, no-longer-white-and-red gym shoes with partial laces and missing insoles.
I lifted my face toward the top of the stairs. “Clint!”
He poked his head out of our bedroom. “Yeah?”
“Is there something you’d like to tell me?”
“Your new dress shoes have seen better days.”
“Oh. Yeah. I gave my shoes away."
"I ran into a guy who’d just graduated from the Teen Challenge program and had an upcoming job interview." He nodded toward the "shoes." "You can toss those.”
Oh, gee, thanks. May I?
“I’m not touching those!” I didn’t say those words. Another day, I certainly would have. But an odd sense of sentimentality rose within me. These shoes were good enough for the man who’d worn them, the man who was right now walking on Cloud 9 as he pranced around in his brand-new work shoes.
I’d tripped on more than shoes in the entryway. I’d tread upon a holy exchange. My perspective altered with such force that the shoes transformed from objects to be gathered with tongs and a HAZMAT suit, to a symbols I felt honored to hold. Fifteen years prior, Clint had admitted himself into Teen Challenge for alcohol addiction. He’d walked in that stranger’s shoes.
Within the time between his leaving the Teen Challenge program and the shoe incident, Clint graduated from college, earned a master degree and started a family. By passing on his shoes, I prayed Clint also passed along the blessings he’s acquired along his journey.
I bet that Teen Challenge graduate nailed that interview.
Clint was always practically-minded. In fact, his favorite argument between us ended with me shouting, “I know you’re right, but stop being so practical!”
Dumbfounded, he’d replied, “What am I supposed to say to that? I’m right but I’m still wrong?”
As with the Teen Challenge stranger, whenever Clint saw a need he could fix, he fixed it.
So he would have scolded me if he’d known it required contemplation on my part to gift away one of his two, thick winter coats to a family in need. I can imagine how the conversation would have gone.
I’m rolling in my grave over this, Sam.
You don’t have a grave—and that’s not funny.
It’s hilarious ... I don’t need them anymore, Sam. And that refugee family from the Congo is about to face their first Minnesota winter. You should give them both coats, actually.
They can have one.
Sleeping with the other coat at night isn’t going to bring me back.
Be quiet and…
… stop being so practical?
The practical answer isn’t always the correct answer. I miss you.
I’m proud of you, love. I’m so proud.
Christmas Eve 2019 will mark the six-month anniversary of Clint’s death. I’ll never be able to fill his shoes, but I learned so much from him. I look forward to sharing our story with you. I am lucky to have walked alongside him for 16 Christmases, 15 as his wife. This Christmas, he walks beside Emmanuel.
I wonder sometimes about his footwear.