My father has worn wingtips his entire life, or at least as long as I have known him. He had wingtips he would wear to the office, and shiny, flashy wingtips he would wear for a night out. He would wear a pair of old battered wingtips to putter around in the yard or to take a walk or a bike ride. He always wore dress slacks or work slacks as well, with the constant button down collared shirt. No shorts, jeans, or sweatshirts for my dad. I’m not sure why he was so opposed to wearing casual, comfortable clothes however I can speculate that maybe his style of dress was simply a reflection of how he felt inside, and how he viewed the outside world around him.
Recently, my dad has begun wearing sneakers, as they are required during his physical therapy. His therapists had me buy a size larger than what he had requested because, come to find out, he had been wearing the wrong size his entire adult life. The size I got him was perfect and for the first time in his life, my dad was wearing comfortable shoes in the correct fit. Even now, weeks later, he seems always amazed at how comfortable they are and how good his feet feel.
Last night at the hospital, I had an opportunity to see my dad’s bare feet as they stuck out from beneath his covers when the nurse asked him to wiggle his toes. His feet are deformed and knotty looking from years and years of stuffing his feet into too small a shoe size. They look painfully awful and I can’t help but think how sad it is, that he’s lived his whole life this way.
In fact, his feet are kind of an analogy for how he’s lived his whole life. Uncomfortable with himself, I think, and with others around him, he used formality as a type of wall to close himself off from the world. He would rather live pinched and uncomfortable than open himself up to things he couldn’t, or wouldn’t, understand. Maybe he feels that by doing without any luxuries or comfort, and suffering silently on a daily basis, that that somehow makes him better than everyone else, stronger, more resilient.
We all end up at the same place eventually. Time has a way of creeping up on us. It’s difficult for me to understand my dad and his quirks and eccentricities, and I have long given up trying to “help” him see another side of things. Now, I smile and make small talk, and bite back the remarks that might argue or upset. We have never had a bond or a connection, we have never had an in-depth conversation, and perhaps it for this very reason. It pleases me though now to know that at the very least I was able to give my dad a comfortable pair of shoes.