How much support do we baby boomers give our aging parents? Wendy Reichental looks back and thinks, not enough … especially when (excuse the pun) the support her late mother needed was about shoes!
It’s strange, but it’s when I try to go shopping that I’m reminded of how much I miss my mother. Shopping was something she and I did so frequently that going by myself now seems somewhat unnatural and unnecessary.
You see, my mom and I were true shopaholics. Of course we would never concede to this…we preferred instead to liken our activity to a high-impact retail workout! We would walk up and down every aisle in a store, ensuring we got our full cardio benefits, and because we never liked to try anything on, we would go back the next day to do our returns, thus burning additional calories and further exercising our wallets! Looking back, I have no regrets for what we did because those times we shared together were special and, while not cheap, priceless.
There is one thing from these memories that has been haunting and gnawing away at me lately. Often on these shopping expeditions, my mom and I would part ways and meet up in the shoe department. The reason was, it was the one place where there was someplace to sit so my mom could take a shopping break and rest her feet. And in a happy coincidence, it was also appropriate because my mom never met a pair of shoes she didn’t like. I would find her in the shoe department, not resting, but trying on a pair of running shoes that looked like something Justin Bieber would swagger around in today.
But that was my mom. She never equated her age with a certain senior standard. She loved her bold colors and patterns. The skullcaps and daggers that splashed across a pair of flat runners was not by any means a problem… for her. And my mom would always have that same giddy expression, as she glanced towards me for my opinion. Because I wasn’t sure that this type of footwear was befitting someone my mom’s age (we’re talking eighties!) who had recently suffered a hip fracture, I always wore the same exasperated look: total dismay and disapproval! I thought she should be wearing orthopedic-type shoes, something with a high arch that would offer her nothing but comfort and support.
Then just a few weeks ago, my husband and I were out shopping for some much-needed walking shoes. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for; all I knew was that I wanted a funky pair of runners that would not give me blisters or bleeding heels. We went to the popular Shoe Depot and within minutes, my husband and I both found something we liked. He was trying on a pair of maroon-colored running shoes that were totally out of his conservative zone. He looked at me and wondered what I thought. I thought he looked fabulous, and so youthful. But somehow he didn’t believe me, so we stopped a barely 17-year-old sales clerk and asked what he thought. I asked straight out if my husband was too old (now we’re talking late forties) to be wearing this style of shoe?
The kid clerk chuckled and said something so profound, I might tie-dye it on a T-shirt. What he said was, my husband’s not too old because “a fun shoe fits all ages.” And in that moment it hit me: why couldn’t I have said those same words to my mom? Why couldn’t I just have told her that she looked great and maybe got one in my size too!?! Why couldn’t I just have endorsed her choices, why was I so concerned about age “appropriateness?” There is no age limit on shoes or….and this is the lesson here…on anything else that makes someone feel happy, good, or young.