Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Adventures Not Taken

Shoes. We take for granted that these little bits of leather, plastic and rivets will be ready for any adventure that pops up. We assume they will support and protect us as we walk over hot sidewalks and soft carpets. And at the end of the day, it's nice to take them off and place them next to another pair of still-warm, well-traveled shoes. Shoes are at the start and the end of every adventure.

Maggie loved shoes. Her eyes would light up when she saw a pair that tickled her fancy. She’d be so excited to bring them home that she’d walk around the house wearing them like she was a model putting on a show. I don’t know for certain but I imagine that in each pair she saw a lifetime of adventures to be experienced. She loved adventures, large and small. I loved seeing her happy. Ergo, I loved her shoes.

Sunday I packed up 118 pair of adventures not taken and put them into boxes to be given away, or rather, set out on adventures that wouldn’t include she or me. The careful process of moving each pair from the closet where they’ve sat for more than two years frozen in time was painful. Each pair represented a thousand adventures we’ll never have together and a million memories we’ll never create.

Some shoes looked pristine as though they had never been worn. The mysteries surrounding these shoes made me wonder what grand adventure she was dreaming about when she bought them. Where was she planning to go or what was she planning to do while wearing these shoes? I am sad that she never got the chance to walk a mile in those shoes. I’m sad that each of these pair of untouched pumps, flats, boots or heels represents so many unrealized dreams and adventures not taken. For each pair, I mourn the loss of what we didn’t have. I’m sad because she was sad that life was cut short too soon. She definitely wasn’t done living. She, rather, WE had miles and miles still to go together, hand-in-hand.

The others, obviously her go-to shoes, showed her love with well-worn soles. Touching those shoes hurt because so many of those scuffs and scratches we made together and I miss her and those moments dearly. I suppose now is the time to be reminded of the sage advice of Dr. Seuss: "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."

Crap. Why is it that the shoes hurt so much? They are just f-ing shoes.


Because it happened… Yes. I’ll smile. I’ll keep smiling through my tears.

The business of change presses on.


  1. That's exactly how it feels. So many miles walked, but so many more that we didn't get to do. Just so painful. Thanks for sharing this one, Chris.

  2. This is a very meaningful post for me Chris.
    When my husband was alive, we travelled the world. Our favourite thing to do was to find ourselves walking the streets of some foreign city - hand in hand and thrilled to be together and discovering the world. He died a year ago.
    My son, who was desperately grieving decided to take a trip to Europe. When we went through some of my husbands things my son, took many of his sweaters and jackets and shirts. However, my sons feet were bigger than my husbands. Except for this one pair of very cool, very expensive pair of shoes. For some reason they fit.
    My son took them with him on his three week tour of Europe, he sent me an email that said "Dad and I have walked hours every day, through the most beautiful cities. I have almost worn out the shoes".
    I felt such gratitude and knowing what a thrill my husband, his Dad would have to know that the trip he always dreamed of taking was happening and my husband was "there" in spirit walking the roads with our son.

    I remain so deeply grateful for every mile we walked together, yes the journey ended too soon. But I remember them all.
    Thanks for the poignant post.

  3. Chris, as always, you cut to the heart, open wide and let the feeling pour out as your words wash over and the healing journey continues unabated yet different somehow. Approaching my second year of adventures not taken with my beloved Tim, I have yet to figure out what to do with his fabulous custom made Italian RED leather dancing shoes...oh so many FUN adventures they shared with us! He wore them in his full body open casket along with a fabulous suit and tie and for a moment, I thought I saw his smile...but I wasn't into burning them up with him. Happily most of this other size 14 shoes went to his adult nephews to make new adventures. So I look at his red shoes in the closet from time to time and smile at the memories we made together. Thankfully, we all still have our precious memories...

  4. I cleared out John's closet about a month ago because I needed space for my four year old's clothes. And though I can not bring myself to part with his shirts I have also hung on to all of his shoes. I can't give them away or throw them out, and I was surprised by that. I never realized how much his shoes represented who he was. One pair in particular is his cowboy boots. He had bought me a pair years ago and I loved them. He finally got a pair for himself and he loved it when we both went out with our boots on. He would put his boots on and hook his thumbs in his belt loops and say with his best southern accent, "ye haw meatball, we got our boots on!" (Meatball was his nickname for me). I rarely wear my cowboy boots anymore and I think I just realized why. Too painful I guess, but I am also grateful for these memories, but you are right, there should have been more memories for us to make. Thank you for your post today.

  5. "They are just f-ing shoes." And shirts, pants, socks, underwear, cars, golf clubs, books, favorite coffee, favorite juice, food, career, TV shows, music, hobbies, people. They are the pieces that make up a life. They are the belongings of one who is loved beyond measure. The things we hold on to are just things yet they are not just things. They are the things that our loved one left behind. A unique, one of a kind, never to be here again, life. That is why it is so hard to part with them. When our loved one was here, it was easy to go through their things, as well as ours, to give away to charity. But now we are painfully aware that when we give clothing, shoes, etc. away, they will never be replaced by new ones. There will be a forever void. I haven't been able to do it yet, two years post mortem. Not ready yet for more loss. The void is still too big for me, and keeping his things still bring me comfort. We are all dealing with grief in our own way, and no matter how we do it, it still boils down to having a shattered heart.

  6. "The business of change"...brings to mind David Bowie's song "Changes". We all go through them, whether we want to or not. No, Maggie did not get all her walking done (I'm not sure how she would with 118 pairs to choose from!), but it sounds like she walked many a mile with you, Chris. I'm sure you will treasure those memories.

    Why do the shoes hurt so much? They were molded to the ones we loved so much. I commend you on packing them all up at once, I can only do it bit by bit. I know people see his coats still hanging in the front closet, and probably wonder why they are still there, but I just can't make a clean break with it all. I know it's just "stuff", but it was his, and I'm just hanging on for a bit longer.

  7. Good one, Chris.
    For me, shoes were and still are some of the hardest items to look at. So empty. Waiting for him.
    Most of his shoes look so similar. Thankfully, I can't tell which pair he wore all over Rome with me.
    But the pair he wore the day we got married, those I recognize. I don't know how I'll get rid of them or even face them, for that matter. But I will. Gives me courage to know you've done it.