I married a woman who was born without toes.
She walks a little funny and she’s not much of a dancer, but neither am I.
Charlotte, toes or no toes, has taught me a lot about life. She believes in me! She encouraged me to become a shoemaker, something I’d always dreamed of but lacked the confidence to pursue. She worked her fingers - she has a full set of those - to the bone at crappy jobs, waitressing and cleaning offices, while I attended a vocational program to learn everything about shoes.
Charlotte told people I was going to Shoe College.
I was soon able to open my own shoe repair shop. It’s doing okay, but lots of folks don’t wear leather shoes anymore, just sneakers or flip-flops. When those wear out, they simply throw them away, they don’t bring them to me, that’s for damn sure! When I get all worked up about stuff like that and begin to feel sorry for myself, Charlotte reminds me to accept with grace those things I can’t change but find the courage to change those things that should be changed and figure out which is which.
I promise her I’ll try.
Our two children came along before we planned to have any. “Because somebody couldn’t keep it in his pants,” says Charlotte.
Our daughter Robin is perfect, cute as can be, but little Billy only has three toes on one foot and just a big toe on the other. He’s crazy about sports, though. I often watch through the window as he dribbles a ball around our tiny backyard, but those missing toes make it difficult.
Billy runs crookedly. Sometimes he’ll swerve suddenly and crash into our fence, and if he gets going too fast he’s likely to tip right over. When I see him fall down it breaks my heart and I want to rush outside and scoop him up in my arms. But what would I tell him? I’m sorry about your toes? Accept with grace those things you can’t change?
Billy’s birthday is coming soon and lately, after I lock the door of the shop and hang the SORRY, WE’RE CLOSED sign in the window, I sit at my workbench and work on his birthday present. I’m building, from scratch, a special pair of shoes for him. They look just like regular shoes, but inside, where Billy’s toes should be, I’ve sewn leather pockets that I’ll fill with lead to simulate the weight and shape of the toes he doesn’t have.
I’m hoping, when he wears these shoes, Billy will run straight and true.
published 23 February 2011