When my paternal grandmother was getting up there in age, she seemed to be in a serious health decline. Friends and family were tut-tutting about how the poor dear just couldn’t seem to get around any more. And it was true. She could barely walk.
Then one day one of my aunts noticed Grandma’s shoes. All of Grandma’s shoes, it turned out, were badly worn in the heels, and very unevenly worn at that. Whenever she stood on these shoes, in other words, it tilted and twisted her feet something awful.
And, of course, her shoes had become that way gradually, too gradually to notice what was happening, really.
My aunt took Grandma shoe shopping, tossed out the old shoes, and voila, Grandma was younger and spry and agile again.
All she needed were shoes that didn’t force her ankles and legs into impossible angles.
We so often overlook the simple.
My mother liked to tell me this next story, also about shoes, also about how sometimes life gives us simple problems with simple solutions.
When I was very young, I wasn’t learning to walk on schedule. The doctors told my mother that she should prepare herself for the worst. My twin sister had died the day we were born, from massive birth defects (no brain, essentially), and I had been born with harmless but obvious birth defects myself. ‘Face it’, these worldly-wise experts said, ‘this was just a very bad pregnancy and the results aren’t good. You might have a child with serious neurological problems. She might never be able to walk. She might be retarded. You might have to put her in an institution. Face it.’
My mother took a good, hard look at me, and realized that my feet were smaller than usual. She went out and got me shoes that were too big for my feet. She stuffed my feet and wadding into the shoes, and right away I became a toddler instead of a crawler.
My feet were just too small for a novice walker to balance upon, apparently. I had the usual bad coordination of most toddlers, but nothing worse than that, it turned out. All I needed was oversized shoes and some way to keep my feet firmly inside them.
Once I got good at walking with my funky shoes, my mother launched phase two. She weaned me off the shoes until I could walk barefoot just like all the other little kids my age.
Some problems are very difficult, of course. But do me a favor. Every now and then, check your family’s shoes. Please. A fair amount of suffering and worry could be avoided, I think, if we just put a little thought into what we’re trying to stand on.
It’s sounds silly, I know.
But sometimes all someone needs is better shoes.
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