My Father’s Shoes

By William Greenfield

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Hand- me- overs from a learned brother,
they lay cracked and misshapen
in the bottom of the dark closet;
a symbol of some latent sadness.
It was there, but hidden from
the innocence of youth.
They spoke of a man in need of
something above and beyond the
benefits of comfortable footwear. 

I can remember his facts.
He never drank milk.
He denied my sister a trip
to the shoe store in the snow.
He wouldn’t say why, couldn’t reveal
the fear, the compassion. He was
unable or unwilling to console his wife
when her anxiety surfaced late at night.
So, he would do deeds for the needy.  

I worked with him in the summer
for a rich uncle.  He sometimes
used the “F” word to impress me; to
make me less innocent and a bit more
brazen. He told me he was a bad example
of  what I could become.  I never knew
if he had expectations. But there were
requirements, like taking out the garbage
and sweeping the porch.

I don’t recall if his widow mourned
when his damaged heart could do no more.
I don’t remember tears of grief.  I remember
pictures of a soldier in sunglasses and
lectures about returning a screwdriver.
I should have asked if there was more;
something I could do when a firm handshake
was just not enough to fill an empty
pair of second hand shoes.

William Greenfield