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Shoes, Socks, and Random Thoughts

Not long after I first started dating my wife, we spent a fall weekend with some of her college roommates and friends. I'm sure Sue was a bit nervous, as it was the first time I had met these friends. I was a bit nervous as well, but my apprehension evaporated soon after the initial greetings and introductions.

Everyone retreated to the living room, and at the hosts request we removed our shoes. Just moments later, I was very unnerved when the host pointed at me as she laughingly informed the crowd that I was wearing "holy socks." Anxiously, I glanced at the bottom of my feet, and sure enough. There was a decent sized hole on the bottom of the socks on each of my feet. Embarrassed, I stammered something to the effect that my good socks were in the washer, or some other equally lame comment, but the host immediately put me at ease. As it turns out, a boyfriend with holes in his socks meant that he was a normal, down to earth guy, and not a city snob. At the time, Sue and I both lived in the Chicago area, and the host was from rural downstate Illinois. Growing up, my family had lived in downstate Illinois not far from the host, so I fully understood the context of her remarks. I don't know what kind of boyfriends Sue's college buddies were used to meeting, but I was glad I had passed the initial test!

These days however, I wear a different kind of socks. Ever since my accident, I have been relegated to wearing TED hose whenever I am up in the chair. These are those extremely attractive, white, knee-length compression socks that are supposed to help prevent the formation of blood clots in your legs. Even after years of repeated washing and wearing, the person putting them on my feet always has a bit of a struggle, because they are so tightfitting. Even though I am not the one putting them on, it gives me some idea of what women must have gone through when they put on pantyhose. The funny thing about TED hose however, is that they all have an intentional hole in them near the bottom, as you are holding them upright. This deliberate shortage of material is ostensibly so you can check the circulation of the wearers toes. It seems to me if they are that tight, you have a bigger problem, but I digress. A year or so ago these same college friends who made my introduction so memorable paid a visit to us in Texas. While here Sue took off my shoe for some reason. There it was again, duly pointed out once more – holy socks! I guess some things never change.

As a youth, going shopping for a new pair of shoes was a special occasion of sorts. Growing up in a large family, (nine children) clothes could often be handed down, but not shoes. Peer pressure sometimes overruled all other decision factors in shoe selection. For example, as a basketball player in high school, only Converse All-Stars were acceptable, nothing else would do. There was nothing quite like opening your new box of shoes at home, removing all the paper, and taking in the smell of fresh leather. Usually, one pair had been laced by the salesperson when you tried on the shoe, but the other was not. The one laced by the salesperson was done differently than the way I did it, as I used a simple crisscross pattern. That was always a source of minor irritation, because I had to re-lace the one done by the salesperson. After I was injured, a number of my old shoes no longer fit, a phenomenon I dismissed as platypus foot disease. None of my black dress shoes fit, except the one I purchased about 14 years earlier. Several times a year I would teach a class to groups of visiting mechanical engineers where I worked, and after standing all day in a pair of hard leather dress shoes, my feet threatened to go on strike unless I found something more comfortable. I found a pair of Sketchers that were much more forgiving, and they not only became the workhorse of my black shoes stable, they were the only ones that fit after I was hurt. Fast-forward to eight years after my accident.

I had occasion to wear my dress like shoes, and worn but not weary, they slipped on my feet like an old pair of comfortable friends. I joked after my accident that unlike "normal people," any shoe I purchased from then on would have the unusual characteristic of wearing out the uppers long before I would ever wear out the soles and heels. This included my familiar Sketchers, as they had been re-heeled and re-soled shortly before my injury. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary that day, except for the fact that we kept finding granularized pieces of rubber wherever I went that day, and we kept checking the chair to find out where it was falling apart. We met with friends that evening, and at one point, there were three people on their knees, crawling around and looking underneath the chair for signs of damage. None could be found however. It wasn't until later that evening that the mystery was solved. When the home health aide took off my left shoe, a look of horror came over her face. "Oh my gosh," she exclaimed. "What happened here? " A large chunk of the heel on my left shoe was missing, apparently the victim of spending too many years unused on the shelf! After having a good laugh, I took solace in knowing that once again, I had worn out a pair of shoes "like a normal person." I fell asleep that evening to the scent of fresh leather wafting through my mind…

Slice of Life series articles are those that share the special experiences of those living in a wheelchair in a way that is witty, informational, poignant and even inspirational. Do you have a story? Share it with us at

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