01:12:02 am on
Friday 18 Jan 2019

The Shoes Kept Coming
AJ Robinson

The television show, All in the Family, had many great moments. I recall one designed to point out the problems with the computers, of the 1970s, when the show aired. Edith sent in a coupon or some such to a prune company, in response to a mail-in offer; the company sent her fifty cents in return.

► The money kept coming.

Well, the problem for her was that they kept sending the money. She eventually amassed quite the pile of change and was in a quandary as to what to do with it. Finally, with the help of Michael, her son-in-law, she was able to get them to stop and sent the money back, but a new issue arose.

Archie, her husband, found her on the phone to the company when he came home from work one day. He asked if they were again sending her quarters; she told him no, gesturing behind her at a stack of crates. She explained the company was now sending her cases of prunes.

That story ties in with a memory from my youth. I’ve all kinds of mementoes of my family, my dad, most especially, as he was quite the colorful fellow. Yet, there was one odd little item from his past that I chose to get rid of, as it was quite annoying: his many pairs of shoes.

During his service in the US Army in World War II, my dad injured his foot. An operation managed to repair his heel, but he had a permanent disability. It wasn’t bad enough to get him discharged, but he did end up with one very interesting gift from the Veterans Administration (VA), that is, free shoes for the rest of his life,

The shoes accommodated his injury, specially contoured to the unusual shape of his arch. He was never able to wear any other shoes. As Government Issue footwear, the free shoes were less than stylish; in fact, the government sent him the exactly the same style of shoe for over thirty years, one pair in black, one in brown, one tan and one white.

These were ugly shoes. Year in, year out, the VA sent the shoes. My father would line up the shoes in the closet, oldest in front and newest in the back. As the shoes wore out or his closet got too full, day would throw out the most worn and move on.

► Then my father passed.

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Then, as time and tide wait for no one, there came the day that my father left us. We went through all the usual steps: cremation, scattering his ashes and holding a wonderful memorial. Then we had to, as the saying goes, “take care of the paperwork.”

There was his will to probate. His estate was to be finalised. My brothers and I divided his possessions and special family items, but his shoes were not among them.

Then, a few months later, a package came in the mail addressed to him. This surprised me. We’d managed to cancel his credit cards, close his bank account and put all the utilities in my name.

Thus, getting an actual package for him was amazing and confusing. I immediately opened it. It held a pair of black shoes, Government Issue, and just as ugly as ever.

It seemed we’d neglected to cancel his standing shoe order with the VA. As it turned out, it was the most difficult to accomplish. Just like that stupid prune company, no matter what I did, I could not convince the VA my dad was dead and no longer needed shoes.

Social Security knew to stop his checks. Medicare stopped his healthcare. The VA knew enough to cancel his other services, but, apparently, that news went unshared with the shoe department.

It took the better part of a year, but the shoes finally stopped coming. I didn’t throw away the last pair. No, as it turned out, Fate saw fit to allow me to put them to use.

The Lemon Bay Playhouse was putting on the comedy, The Odd Couple, and we needed all kinds of items to make Oscar Madison’s apartment look messy. As my dad was quite the sloppy fellow, a true Oscar in every sense of the word. It seemed a touch of poetic irony that his last pair of shoes should be part of the set dressing.

► Place of honour.

I couldn’t help but smile every night we performed the show. I played Speed. I saw those shoes perched on the back of the couch and made sure they had a place of honour.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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