I was sitting out on our back deck on Wednesday enjoying being outside without a mask. The weather was cool, but sunny. The birds were making a delightful racket. The grass looked wonderful, with no dandelions, thanks to the neighbor who is mowing our yard this summer.

My recovery is coming along nicely, thank you. I didn’t have a clinic appointment on Friday, so I can enjoy where I am right now. If there is to be bad news, which seems unlikely, but you never know, I’m days away from hearing it.

There I was feeling quite mellow, when I used the peace and quiet to start thinking about … shoes. I’m not kidding. I didn’t think about the wonder of nature; how grateful I am for modern medicine and the medical people who are taking care of me. My mind didn’t turn to thoughts of friends, or gratitude for the abundance before me. No. I started thinking about shoes.

Obviously, it could have been worse, this whole random thinking thing. I could have started wondering why corn is so hard for humans to digest; whether the circle truly will remain unbroken; why people put unsharpened pencils, eraser side up, in their pen and pencil holders. Without a point, there’s no … well, point.

At first it did not seem completely outrageous that this off-road random thinking thing could have been a side effect of one of my new medications. One that I likely will take for the rest of my life lists 63 possible side effects, many having to do with my bodily functions. None of the side effects, though, seems to involve thinking or how you go about it.

It seems odd that I would even consider shoes. I don’t normally. In recent years, not counting the pair of slippers I’ve had for more than 10 years, I’ve never owned more than four pairs of footwear at one time: two pair for everyday, a pair of sneakers and a pair of winter boots. That’s it. Sometimes I’ve even gotten by with one pair of everyday shoes.

My wife doesn’t have many pairs of shoes, more than me, but at least hers seem to be of different types rather than, say, eight pairs of pumps in different colors. I have friends who love buying shoes, having shoes, coveting shoes; at the risk of contributing to a cliché, they are all women. They don’t seem to have shoes in Imelda Marcos numbers, but they do seem to have enough so that they never have to worry about going shoeless. They do, though, seem to be concerned about not having the right shoes to wear at any given time.

Back in the day, I got one pair of shoes at the beginning of the school year and was darned happy to have them. When walking to school, two miles uphill both ways, with snow even in May, if something on them broke or wore out, my dad just fixed them, or my mother did if she got tired of waiting for my dad to do it.

They would put on new soles and heels, but for anything more complicated we took them to the cobbler. Seriously. The cobbler. No elves, just a guy who look like he’d inhaled a lot of glue fumes in his time. He’d take the shoes, fill out a ticket and give you the stub.

I must say, I loved the smell of that place. No, not because of the glue but because of all that leather. Picking up shoes from the cobbler was one of the few chores I had as a kid I didn’t complain about.

My Kilbirnie grandfather actually had a cobbler’s last (if you just wondered, last what?, I’m surely showing my age. Oh well, sue me.) though I never saw anyone use it, except maybe to polish their shoes. Sheri assures me people still polish their shoes. I do have some tins of shoe polish somewhere, but whenever they resurface, and I twist that annoying little thing on the side that lifts the lid up, the polish inside is cracked and dry and unusable. Well, it was never the right color anyway. Usually oxblood. As a kid, my mother would sometimes give me oxtail soup. I was always surprised it didn’t taste like shoe polish.

Does it bother me that people spend so much money on so many shoes? Why on earth would it? Not my feet, not my shoes, not my money. Or, as I saw on Facebook the other day, “Not my circus. Not my monkeys.”

Certainly, if the shoe buyers were thinking about shoes and writing about it all, it would be far more interesting than anything I could write. I mean, I have a pair of sneakers; they’re … sneakery. I couldn’t even tell you what color my winter boots are; green, if I had to guess. One pair of my everyday shoes is light brown and the other is dark brown. Not exactly fascinating.

I guess the path my thinking took isn’t actually a side effect of any of the medicines I’m taking. In truth it would have been OK if it was. Certainly better than some of those other 63 side effects of that one drug: red skin lesions, often with a purple center, or even large, hive-like swelling on the face, eyelids, lips, tongue, throat, hands, legs, feet or sex organs. Yikes.

Jim Arnold is a former copy editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. To read more about his journey through cancer, visit his blog, findingthepony.blogspot.com.


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