September 12, 2011
I had always wondered how my grandpa’s shoes could last forever. I hardly noticed where they were, but grandpa always wore them on special occasions.
Every time when I think about grandpa, those dark greenish-brown shoes bring me back to my childhood.
Grandpa lived with us to help took care of four kids. Before he retired from the soap factory where he had been working for more than twenty-five years, he rode two hours to and back from work every weekday on his bicycle, no matter if it were sunny or rainy. He was always in his uniform, white t-shirt and blue pants (an extra blue jacket in winter). Instead of wearing shoes, he wore sandals most of the time, even when he was going to work.
As a growing boy who was curious about almost everything in the house, grandpa’s shoes became my number one puzzle. I thought they must be comfortable, so he liked to wear them on important dates. Sometimes, I would try them on my tiny feet before he put them back in place. Surprisingly, they were stiff like wooden shoes. Even any of my used-up shoes were much softer than they were. In my teenage years, I figured that if I wore my shoes less often, they might last longer than grandpa’s. But what happened was either I outgrew my shoes or they just fell apart after sitting in the closet for a couple of years.
“Grandpa,” I asked him one day, “did you pay a lot for them?”
“No, they are just ordinary shoes.” He looked at me with a affectionate smile. “Why?”
“Nothing.” I shook my head. “They just never break.”
I guessed grandpa had no answer for my silly question either; there were plenty of things to worry about beside his shoes.
Grandpa always said: “Study hard so you can get yourself an easy job.” Since I was a kid, he wanted me to know that making a living was not easy. “Look at those people who just stay in the office and read papers but getting paid well.” I would nod to him right away like I knew what “easy job” really meant, because I didn’t want to disappoint him.
Frankly, I wasn’t smart enough to handle elementary school well, and the worst thing was that I was not adorable at all (annoying, actually). So when both of my parents worked more than sixteen hours a day, only taking two days off in a whole year in order to pay the bills and my tuition, they had very little time for me and were uncertain that their investment would pay back some day— they sent me to a expensive private school. But grandpa was always there for me when I needed him. Countless times he saved me from troubles.
“Use caution the next time.” That was what he always told me.
“I will die someday,” Grandpa would say this sometimes when I was really naughty. “I can’t take care of you forever.” He sighed.
“Oh.” I would distract him with other subjects right away to cheer him up when he started it. I wished that day would have never had to come.
As far as I could remember, grandpa had never punished me— except the day he was called to my school in a hurry.
“It’s not a big deal,” I thought. I had an argument with one of my classmate about some nonsense. To mean business, we put one dollar as the bet. Unluckily, my teacher caught us red-handed and took it very seriously. She wanted to talk to parents— immediately.
“On your knees!” Grandpa raged, I hadn’t seen him so angered before. I was aghast when he slammed my hand, “Apologize to your teacher and promise you will never, ever, ever gamble again!” He worried that I would degenerate. What grandpa didn’t realize was that I wasn’t even clever enough to be bad (otherwise I wouldn’t get caught). But grandpa never brought that up to my parents; he rehabilitated me then trusted me like he always did.
After that incident, in the last two years of my elementary school, I was doing better little by little. I came all the way from the last thirty percent to the fourth place (one first place in a mid-term) in grade six. My overall standing ended up at the tenth place among all others. So grandpa wore his shoes and put on his suit to attend my graduation ceremony. On our way home, I could tell he was proud of me, and I was so happy because grandpa saw me getting a reward on the stage.
The day finally came.
During my last summer vacation in college, grandpa got sick. I took turns with my family in the hospital to look after him. One month after his surgery was done, grandpa returned home then stayed with us for less than a year. He passed away at age seventy-five because of cancer. After his funeral, I saw his shoes in the closet, but he didn’t wear them for his own special occasion.
Twenty-one years after, from the last time I saw grandpa’s everlasting shoes, the secret finally was revealed,
In all these years, I’ve been thinking about my grandpa a lot: he always stayed home and drank alone, and rarely went out with us, and always waited for me when I got home late. Sadly, I was too young and was not sensible enough to share his worries and burden. I often wish grandpa were here with me, so that we could enjoy some more time together. I’ve never once written about grandpa for no reason— fearful of thinking about the pain of losing him again and again, maybe. Except for this time, by gathering every piece of memory that I had with him, I found out how lucky I was to have grandpa in my life. I finally realize that why grandpa’s shoes never worn out, and that is because his love for me never fades. –1004 words.