Dad became a salty old beach bum in his retirement. During his working years our family always took a summer vacation at the beaches of North Carolina. And for more than 15 years after he retired, he & mom owned a place a beach cottage of their own on the North Carolina Outer Banks. They designed it, built it and named it “Gritty Britches” (inspired by my sister’s frequent childhood encounters with the sand in the surf.)
While living the beach life, Dad grew accustomed to sitting out in the sun, wearing swim trunks everywhere, along with his plain black sandals (repaired over and over with duct tape, until they got so sticky he was forced to get another pair). On dressy occasions, like going out to a seafood restaurant or a movie, he had his pastel plaid shirt, matching pastel slacks and his white summer shoes.
Fast forward to the present and Dad is staying in an assisted living facility in Raleigh. Raleigh is in the south, and there’s an unwritten rule here that you do not wear white shoes after Labor Day. It is simply-not-done. Summer is over, so put them away until next Easter!
But as Dad got older and more frail, certain things meant comfort and reassurance to him. Two of those things were sitting in the sun with his shirt off, and another was wearing his “summer shoes”, not only in the summertime… but well into the fall, and if truth be told, all year.
Since his life was already filled with the losses that come with age, we didn’t make a big deal about the white shoes out of season.
About that time he was developing a benign essential tremor in his hands (a fancy way of saying his hands shook uncontrollably whenever he tried to use them.) Before too long, he was unable to tie the laces on his white shoes securely and the loose laces became a fall hazard.
To help him maintain his image (and to prevent the fall hazard) something had to be done about those white shoe laces!
I knew a shoe repair shop that also made custom shoes and orthotics and I managed to get Dad’s shoes away from him long enough to take them down to the shop. We came up with the idea of sewing a matching white leather flap over the laces. The flap was lined with Velcro. From then on Dad could keep his white shoes snug by simply pressing the flap down!
But believe me, it was a much tougher deal to convince him it was a bad idea to go out shirtless to catch some rays on a sunny day in mid-December!
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