12:58:42 pm on
Wednesday 19 Jun 2024

The Other Shoe
AJ Robinson

My dad told me a story of “Waiting for the other shoe to drop.” It’s an old expression. The point is anticipation.

The story as told by my dad.

As the story goes, a man was trying to get to sleep in a hotel room when he hears someone enter the room directly above his. The springs and frame squeak and creak, as the person, upstairs, sits on the old bed. Then she or he apparently undressed. One of their shoes hit the floor. Nothing unusual thus far. The man in the lower room is still awake, waiting for the second shoe to hit the floor.

The second shoe didn’t hit the floor. As the man lay in bed, every fiber of his being strained to hear that telltale sound, but it never came. The man tried to ignore it and go to sleep, but he couldn’t. His mind could not let go of the expectation of that other shoe dropping and it not coming.

Finally, enraged, he marched up the stairs and pounded on the door. It took a few minutes, but the person inside opened the door and stood there, kind of on a tilt. You see, the man had one leg.

My dad explained this to me. It’s what often happens when you’re faced with some event, some issue or expectation and there is no follow-through, no closure. It happens.

Life is not always neat and clean; events don’t come full circle and resolve in a nice neat little package. We’re conditioned by books, movies, plays and television shows to expect happy closure and, if not happy, then closure alone.

Think of it. How many events have you ever known that did not come to some sort of satisfying conclusion? Maybe not a happy ending, but an ending, nonetheless.

When such an occurrence happens and it will, man, do we hear of it. The ending to The Sopranos instantly comes to mind. Was the final scene of Nucky, as he slumped, dying to end Boardwalk Empire, make the series his death fever dream?

We will never know. We prefer resolution, the second shoe to drop. We learn, almost from birth, that every event has a beginning, middle and end, even if it doesn’t.

Yet, my dad taught me there comes a time when you must let go and not wait for the other proverbial shoe to drop. Ironically, although dad was good at teaching that principle, he was terrible at following it. He was following yet another bromide, “Those who can’t do, teach.”

Today, I face this dilemma in the case of my mother. When my dad had his stroke, events moved along at a decent pace. Family was able to visit him. I had plans to see him. He passed a month after the first incident.

No, I didn’t get to visit him before it was too late. I have always regretted it. With my mom, she’s now been in the hospital for four months and no one can visit her anymore because of covid-19.

The downside of lockdown.

Since the virus became widespread, her facility is on lockdown: no visitors. Although we understand the reason, it is pure torture as we now have zero connection with her. We try to call; she won’t talk on the phone; she’s too depressed. The facility did a little parade so family members could drive by and wave and call out to the patients, but other than that, nothing.

It makes for a very painful life for us. The not knowing is terrible. Each day, I sit at work and wonder. How is she feeling? Is she any better? Is she in pain?

My brother Greg has been able to talk to the staff. She complains of terrible pains in her legs and feet, she doesn’t want to do the physical therapy and she doesn’t like the food. He brings soup to the front door and gives it to the staff, but doesn’t know if she’s eating properly.

Thus, the days roll along. I sit and wonder. I wait for that other shoe to drop.

Will Greg call to say she’s doing better. Will he say she can go home soon? Will “The” text message appear on my phone.

I often wonder how he’ll say it. Will it be short and sweet? “Guys, mom’s gone.” Will he write something longer, giving us a hint as to her last moments.

I tend to think short. After all, it’s hard to type when your eyes are watery. For now, I take comfort in another old saying: “No news is good news.”

The longer I don’t hear from Greg, the better. Mom lives. Yet, I am anxious, as I don’t know how she’s doing.

Is she lonely? Does she ask for us? Is her body healing. Is she feeling better?

At ninety-four, it’s downright amazing mom has healed as well as she has. There is tenacity and grit in that woman. She refuses to give up and for that I am grateful.

It pains me to know this is not the life she wants. I continue to pray for one thing: peace, may she have peace. Either the peace of good health or the peace of eternal rest.

It’s up to her now.

I only wish we could be there at her side to help. That pain is truly horrid. I know my pain is nothing compared to her pain, so I bear that burden without complaint. Isn’t that what a good son is supposed to do?

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. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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