Several weeks ago, I drove from Colorado to Kansas to be with my mother while she was treated for pneumonia. Mom remained in her apartment taking antibiotics, receiving nebulizer breathing treatments, and being cared for round the clock. I was the non-essential personnel, the daughter who brought in favorite foods, encouraged her to drink more fluids, and read aloud all her favorite children’s poems and prayers at night before she went to sleep.
Staying busy is not the same thing as accomplishing important goals, but thanks to a local Kiwanis “shoes for everyone” program, I spent one day doing both. Armed with lots of coffee to drink, damp and dry cloths to clean shoes that had sat unworn for years, and boxes and bags to fill, I tackled the main closet that had held my parents’ clothing and shoes since they moved into assisted living.
At the end of the day I had collected, cleaned and bagged sixteen pairs of dress shoes, summer sandals, pumps and flats that Mom would never wear again. Each pair brought back memories of her active, busy, productive days before dementia claimed her life.
Imelda Marcos once haughtily proclaimed, “I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes. I had one thousand sixty.” To which I would proudly now reply, “Well, my mother had a pair of dress shoes that would amaze even you, Imelda.”
In the back corner of Mom’s closet, behind a purse and under a pair of slippers, was a pair of brown leather, sling-back dress heels. I didn’t remember her ever wearing these shoes, and when I studied them I realized something else, too. They both were for the left foot! The expression “two left feet” certainly never applied to my mother.
The writer in me said there had to be a great story in this somewhere, and I laughed at the possibilities: mystery? romance? suspense?
The daughter in me felt sad because the woman who was once an intelligent, happy, helpful, fun-loving woman, would have said, “Let’s figure this out together,” and we would have had a great time coming up with a story. Now, because of dementia, she didn’t even know exactly who or where she was; shoes, clothing and jewelry no longer meant anything.
I took the two left shoes with me back to the hotel that night. No great story ideas replaced the sad feelings, and the next morning I threw them away. Driving back to Mom’s apartment, I got a coffee for me and a warm Danish for her, hoping a little morning sweetness might make her smile. I knew she would be resting in her recliner, wearing warm casual clothes, fluffy socks…and slippers instead of shoes.