Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

My Grandfather's Shoes

I have a pair of shoes that belonged to my Grandpa Dick. I found them in his closet after he died and announced my intentions to take them with me even though my mother told me they were too big on me and raised her eyebrows at their sloppiness on my feet (because I didn’t need one more thing to take home and put away in a closet). They were old rubber slip-on sandals that he wore gardening, pruning the flowers, and mowing the lawn. There weren’t many belongings in the house identifiable to him, and I wanted something he used a lot.

I brought the shoes home and wore them out and about in my garden, while I learned to differentiate weed from seedling. I sloshed around in those shoes, in the wet dewy morning grass, growing flowers, vegetables and herbs in the front property of the apartment I rent. One sunny morning, a magical thing happened. I slipped the shoes on to carry the buckets of water out to the front yard, where I pour it into our watering can to drench our flowers and food.

I slipped those sandals on and even though my shoe size had not altered or changed, they hugged my bare soles as if they were made for me, as if they had always been meant for me, the brown boardwalk fare that held my grandfather’s feet and now hold mine. He left such big shoes to fill when he left our family and, like many who are left behind, I tortured myself with the notion that it was up to me to fill them.

Slowly over these last seven years, over the years of hands in the dirt and mulch, planting seeds, and harvesting food for our table has become a catalyst that stirs memories of family dinners and warm summer nights at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house… from their home to mine.

Recently, I have come to understand what it means to say that home is where my heart is. I have found that wherever I am sleeping for the night is what I refer to as home in conversations. Home lies with whom my heart lies and I am blessed to know home in the houses of many people. And that idea of home is a gift that I learned from having my Grandparents in my life.

They can’t be replaced. No one can fill the position in my life these old gardening shoes symbolize to me. We’re not always meant to replace lost things.

But as I slip my feet into those shoes I am reminded of the goodness and generosity of my Grandfather, the connection he had to life and the ease with which he seemed to navigate the world. That- footprints rather than shoes- is something I can aspire to while I find my own way.


  1. Keep reminding yourself of his goodness and generosity and letting it inspire you as you find your way. This is one of my favorite blog posts of yours.

  2. This is really beautiful. My father was almost 53 when I was born. His name was also Dick. I was lucky enough to have him with me until a month after my 40th birthday 2 years ago. Not many people know it, but I took a pair of his worn but well-polished wing tip shoes before the rest of his clothing was donated to charity. I wear them (even though they are 2 and a half sizes big on me) whenever I am writing a cover letter or anything that I would really have wanted his input or approval on. Sometimes I write letters to him on my typewriter just one sheet so I can fold it like the paper airplanes we used to make with my brother. I address it with their initials and let it fly out the open 3rd floor attic window in the hour before sunrise straight into whatever season it is. Right now it's winter. I did that last after New Years. I know they land near the alley of a blues bar or by a bus stop. Yet I don't doubt my dad and brother read them. This is a luminous piece you've written out in the wireless night. I can see it from here. And I bet your grandfather can as well.

    1. Thank you so much! What a beautiful and thoughtful comment. I love that you wear his shoes and write him letters. They never truly leave us, do they?


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