The "Wu Word" Blog
They were a simple
pair of black shoes. Nothing fancy. Nothing fabulous. All function.
All comfort. I fell in love with
them. Or, rather, my Triple F (Fussy,
Fat, Flat) Feet fell in love with them.
I had to buy them. And, I did.
I have a shoe
problem. I can literally spend hours
browsing and trying on shoes. Not for
fashionable purposes. Rather, all for
functional purposes. For as long as I
could remember, I had feet problems that were magnified even more after my hip
replacement surgery. My feet were too
short in length at about 5 1/2, but then too wide. I did not have any arches. My fussy feet were not meant for elegant
high heels, cute ballet slippers, or even hip flip-flops. I had to shop at specialty shoe stores where
my feet were meticulously measured in length and width, and then I had to whip
out my arched orthotics to make sure they fit and were comfortable in the
potential shoes for me to walk in.
Probably the most frustrating part when it came to shoes, though, was I
went through them faster than a bag of potato chips. Because of wrong walking and compensation of
a weak leg versus a strong leg growing up, the soles of my shoes wore down and
formed holes so quickly (definitely less than a year of me buying a pair of
shoes) that I actually go to a shoe repair guy by the name of Tony who listened
and bopped his balding head to blasting opera and classical music in his small
store while he works his shoe repair magic.
With these ultra
comfortable black shoes that were an exciting and unusual combination of
stylish sneakers and work shoes, I was sure that it would be different. I was confident that they would last me
longer than all the others that had to have been tossed or fixed. My feet fell easily into the molding of the shoes. I felt like Cinderella who had found the
perfect fitted shoes. I wore these shoes
just about ALL THE TIME. I was so sure
about these shoes that I did not hesitate to bring them as my main walking and
adventuring shoes for my year-long in advance anticipated and planned two-week
long trip to Europe. Naturally, I
brought an extra pair of shoes just in case.
After all, a girl can never bring enough shoes—especially if they (both
shoes and girl, of course!) are adventuring, exploring, and traipsing in
unknown and new territories.
For two weeks and in
three countries (Hungary, Austria, and Czech Republic) and their respective
cities of Budapest, Vienna, and Prague, I lived, breathed, explored, adventured,
and, above all else, walked in these shoes.
According to my “drama phone” as my friend who I traveled with named my
phone, I walked over 22,000 steps every single day. I walked in fairytale castles, artsy museums,
and restaurants and cafes filled with sweet and mouth-watering pastries. I walked on and crossed bridges with wind
blowing in my hair and the warmth of the sun beating on my back. I walked up and down a total of 200 ladder
steps, staring in awe and amazement down below at the endless crowds of people who
resembled tiny ants and the storybook buildings. I walked up and down polished and slippery
cobblestones in Budapest and Prague. I
watched the world and tried to soak up everything and everyone as I walked and
kept on walking. I walked so much every
single day that my feet hurt so much as the end of the day that I could feel
everything in my soul and spirit for all the things I could do now that I could
not do before and nothing at the same time from my sharply aching feet. I walked so much that my beloved black shoes
that I had put my faith and feet in and that had stepped foot in every possible
nook and cranny of Europe I could possibly manage finally fell apart. Literally.
The bottoms of the shoes had split open to reveal gaping holes. I cradled the shoes in my hands. A part of me wondered if I should bring them
back home to get repaired by Tony. If
anyone could repair them, it would be Tony.
The larger part of me knew it was time to let go and leave behind the
shoes that I had walked in for the certain part of my journey in life. These shoes had lasted me for the little
while that had meant a lot in my life bringing me to the places I needed to be
in, people I needed to meet and spend time with, and experience what I needed
to experience for a particular time in my life.
They had served their
purpose. They were the shoes that had to
be left behind, and I had to be the one to leave them behind.
I have been in those
worn down situations where I am unwanted and unneeded and, let me tell you,
when you are in those situations then the best and only option (if at all
possible) is to leave before being left.
Throughout my life, I was accustomed to being left over me leaving
first. However, as I stared at my black
shoes wondering if I could put them back together again, I realized that there are
some things that cannot be put back together again and that the best and only
thing to do is to leave it behind. Sometimes
we do not have a choice but to leave behind what has to be left behind. It hurts like hell to be left, but now I understand
that there is a different kind of pain, hurt, fear, loneliness, and aloneness to
being the one to leave first. Leaving
behind what is known means looking ahead without really seeing into the
unknown. And, how frightening, exhilarating,
and thrilling is all of that??
Someone once said to
me that it is always better to be the one who leaves than the one who is
left. Is this true? When were you left behind? When did you have to leave someone or
something behind? Was it a choice of
yours Do we really ALWAYS have a choice to leave or to be left behind?
Keep smilin’ until we
Out of all the various public transportation options in the world, I must confess that I hate buses. Give me a train to watch the scenery whiz by me in blurry bursts of beauty. Give me a plane to stare out dreamily at the puffy white clouds. Give me an underground subway with my ears perked up to the surrounding mosaic of conversations and music all around. But, buses, no, not for me. Cramped, Crowded, and Confused. Those are the three adjectives I think of with busses. My only exception is Bus #11. Let me tell you about Bus #11.
Long ago around the time when I was learning to drive, my father told me about Bus #11: “My main form of transportation growing up was Bus #11. Bus #11 is walking as your transportation because the 11 is like your two legs. A very reliable form of transportation where you do not have to catch any transportation or check on any schedule, but just go when you are ready, willing, and able. Get it?”
Yes, I got it. I also got into having to confront my much-loathed buses and much-loved Bus #11 when I met with my adopted grandfather—specifically, Grandpa Mike. Grandpa Mike and I had met at an organ, eye, and tissue donation advocacy event. He had donated his wife’s tissues when she had died suddenly of a heart attack. On a sultry and sticky, hot and humid day in August, Grandpa Mike and I met in the magic and mayhem of New York City. Unlike me, Grandpa Mike LOVED busses! He loved busses so much that he had worked for them and, because he worked for them, he had a lifetime bus pass to get in to one bus after another completely free. He said to me, “You stick with me. I will tell them you are my granddaughter. You won’t have to pay anything.” I chuckled and laughed in response.
For this one day that I would spend with Grandpa Mike, I could tuck away my discord and dislike for busses. By the time I finally found Grandpa Mike sitting patiently waiting for the bus, my tardiness had caused us to miss the latest bus to the Intrepid Air, Space, and Sea Museum. I felt badly for my delay and kept apologizing, but he said to me: “Don’t worry about it. There will be another bus. We will catch the next one. Everything is timing.”
When we finally caught the bus, I plopped down basking in the blast of air conditioning. Busses weren’t so bad after all. Grandpa Mike and I fell into an easy conversation about our family and while I showed his pictures of my loved ones on my iPhone, he whipped out his wallet and started showing me hard copy photos of his loved ones.
Grandpa Mike kept offering to hold my bags and belongings when he had more bags than me. He continued to refuse allowing me to carry his bags as well as to pay for anything. With unexpected strength, he continued to swipe away my hand and wallet when I was about to pay like a fly he was ready to swat. He said to me, “No you will not pay. Grandparents treat their grandchildren. Also, remember this as you are a lady, men should always pay. Always have a man treat you like a lady and pay your way.”
I tilted my head in confusion and tried to explain, “Times are different now, Grandpa Mike. Women pay or men and women can go into it 50/50.”
“If a man likes you and invites you then he should pay. You can call me old-fashioned, but I do not think it is right that women pay or about going 50/50. I think that is why there are lots of relationship issues and confusion now,” Grandpa Mike reasoned.
At the peak of heat, Grandpa Mike and I traipsed around New York City. We watched in wonder at children running through dancing sprinklers and toured the Intrepid Museum that is a military and maritime museum. Grandpa Mike told me that him and other Veterans were invited and honored every year on Veterans Day to a very special and poignant ceremony there at the Intrepid museum. He said, “You should come next time.”
It was getting hotter and hotter and I was getting more and more tired. Bus #11 of walking and walking more was getting exhausting. Yet, there was Grandpa Mike at over 6 feet tall and 85-years-old with waterfalls of sweat dripping down his crinkly, wrinkly, and happy face and two bad knee caps—and not a complaint from his lips. Then, there was me at not even five foot with a 6-year-old hip replacement, and I could not help but mutter a mumble of “Dang, it is so hot” or “Oooh…here we got air conditioning!” I could not believe how much of a wimp I was next to Grandpa Mike. I could not believe how much energy he had. After spending almost six hours together, I suggested to Grandpa Mike: “Grandpa Mike, I’m concerned about how hot it is for both of us and especially you, so I was going to get us an Uber.”
“Absolutely not. We are going to catch the bus,” he insisted stubbornly.
At that point, impeccable timing struck because we passed by someone who was in a wheelchair. Grandpa Mike pulled me close to him and whispered, “That could be either of us in a wheelchair. We are very lucky that we have legs to walk. We always have to be grateful for what we got. We always have to count our blessings.”
Well, wasn’t that the truth? When we arrived at the bus station, the bus that we were about to board had driven away. Great, we had missed the bus. Luckily, there was a bench for us to sit on. I think Grandpa Mike could tell that I was getting exhausted, frustrated, and now disappointed that we had missed the latest bus because he cleared his throat and said slowly: “Do you know the story about a blacksmith who ‘strikes while the iron is hot’?”
I shook my head. I was trying to stay focused on Grandpa Mike and the story he was about to tell me, but I was getting so hot and tired. I took a swig of water and refocused again.
“’’Strike while the
iron is hot’ is all about taking opportunities when the timing is right and
calls for them. A blacksmith can only strike an iron and form something from
the iron when it is the right heat. Too
hot or too cold will not work. It always
has to be the right temperature and time.
It always is about the right timing.
And, remember that you have to take that opportunity when it comes. There is nothing sadder than to miss out on
an opportunity or a second chance. There
are only so many chances we are given in life.”
In a short time
thereafter, the bus finally arrived.
Grandpa Mike and I sat in the quiet comfort of air conditioning and the
hum of conversations all around us. I
could not remember the last time I had sat in a bus. I could not remember the last time I went
back in time in my mind to my Dad telling me about Bus #11 and that it is when
we walk or take transportation that may be slower and require us to wait that
magical moments seem to be made or come to us when we least expect them or
could ever see them. I thought about
Grandpa Mike and about timing, gratitude, attitude, and that while one person
may complain and grumble about their problems that there will be another person
who will not even see a problem at all.
I gave Grandpa Mike a tight hug before I departed from the bus. I did not know when I would see him again,
but I had discovered this: Maybe busses are not so bad after all. Especially Bus #11.
I think we experience
more in life than we could ever imagine write about experiencing more in life than
we could ever when we board Bus #11. Have
you ever spent a day or time with someone who introduced you to new thoughts
and ideas and, perhaps, even changed your views? When was the last time you ‘struck while the
iron was hot’? Or realized the
unbelievable and incredible magic of timing of catching or missing something? When have you boarded Bus #11?
Keep smilin’ until we