There is an old tale about a weary traveller who stayed for some time at an inn. His room was just below that of a man who worked nights. When that man would come back to the inn after his shift was completed, he would ready himself for bed, starting with the absentminded removal of one shoe. It fell to the floor with a loud thud, waking the sleeping traveller below. Having been startled, the traveller would wait for the other shoe to drop before he would allow himself to fall back into deep slumber. But the upstairs man had remembered by then that there was someone sleeping below him, so he carefully removed his other shoe and placed it on the ground with nary a sound. Eventually the frustrated and impatient traveller would yell out, “For goodness’ sake, would you just drop the other shoe already!?!”
Years ago I was awoken by the “thump” of a falling shoe. It is a long story – one not meant to be told right now – but know my sincerity when I say that I surely didn’t expect to contemplate a bare foot just then. I was distracted with the day-to-day of working and mommy-ing and daughter-ing and sister-ing and wife-ing and house-running that I did not see the signs. Sometimes you just don’t. The shoe just falls.
Afterwards, I felt uneasy. Other things in my life suffered neglect because I was always watching and waiting for that other shoe to drop. But life doesn’t always happen in the way you hope or plan or will it to. Some things happen without rhyme or reason or logic or order. I learned to focus again over time, without always looking over my shoulder for a black cloud or a bad sign or some warning for some unnamed, unknown thing that may or may not ever happen to me. Day by day I slowly moved on and I began to participate instead of just letting life happen to me.
In my mind, the greatest thing about being a human being is what you can learn from relationships and what you can learn from experiences. Not just your own, either, but yours, mine and theirs too. If you truly open your heart and mind to people and adventures then you can learn all sorts of things that have the potential to help you evolve. I’m certainly not always successful, but I do try to pay attention to the lessons that are presented to me along my way.
One of the things I have figured out is that many shoes will likely fall throughout my life. Some I will anticipate, but others will startle me out of a deep sleep. And when they do, I will continue to try to face each challenge with strength and courage and, of course, humor.
He was getting stronger and healthier. He was gaining weight and an appetite. He was running and biking. His freckles came back out. His hair started to grow back. He could drive again. He was throwing around the idea of starting college in January because the doctors said it might be an option.
Then, last Wednesday, another shoe just dropped. Braden’s leukemia came back.
He started chemotherapy on Monday. We will celebrate his nineteenth birthday next week.
It is scary and uncertain and my instinct is to wait and listen for the other shoe to drop before I can go back to sleep. I want to hit stuff and I want throw things and I want to curl up in the fetal position and cry. I physically ache for Braden and his mom and dad and sisters and brothers. It hurts so very much to watch as Kid A lives out this experience. I want to yell out, “Just drop the other shoe already!” And I will.
But I (hope that I have) learned which behaviors are effective and which ones are futile, so I will go back to being strong and believing and praying and having courage. I will do my best to uplift him and his family and, of course, Kid A, as they ride this crazy roller coaster of cancer. And this time I will remind myself that not all shoes come in pairs. Or I will remember that sometimes the upstairs man will lay them down with nary a sound.
Here’s hoping that life’s shoes will be more pretty Louboutins than ugly rubber boots, but I will make room in my closet for all of them.
Wish me luck for tomorrow…