I adore shoes. In my younger days when my lifestyle was quite different from now, I actually had a shoe room. It was lined with every kind of shoe I’d ever want.

When I bought new shoes, I did so not because I needed them, but because I liked them.

Also, I keep them forever. Just as long as they fit and I still liked the color, it never occurred to me to give them away.

Well, one rainy day I decided to rearrange my shoe room. We had been away from our Florida home for a good while. So I got the shock of my life when I opened the door.

You know how shoes get dry and hard inside? The leather on the inside sole starts to curl up as it dries, and the outside starts to crack. That is what I discovered that day. About thirty pairs of shoes dying of “Cracked Dryness Disease.” No way could I even walk in them.

I got an idea. I bought a huge jar of Vaseline and I slopped and slathered that stuff in and out of every crack in every shoe. I left them encased with that gunk for two weeks.

The night before Mother’s Day I reentered the shoe room and began rubbing each pair until all the Vaseline was worked in and they were soft and pliable like they were brand new. I chose a beautiful pale pink pair to wear with my new dress for Mother’s Day.

I slipped them on. They looked wonderful. They felt wonderful. But when I began to walk, my heels slipped and flopped right out of those shoes. When I took a step the shoe just folded into its own luxurious softness. There was no suction or structure left.

I took a long sad look at my shoe room. It looked like a shoe morgue. I shut the door thinking maybe, in time, they would regain their stiffness. If not, I would have to start all over again with my shoes. Ain’t life hard sometimes?

Well, I was a different person then. I knew little of a hard life. Now I live in an assisted living facility and I do know about growing old and being ill. But, guess what? I still adore shoes.

I no longer have a shoe room. I do not wear high heels or sandals or have thirty pairs of shoes to choose from. But my shoe story this time again starts with my feet and shoes to put on them.

After another bout with hospitalization for pneumonia, my daughter, knowing my love affair with shoes, brought me a beautiful pair of lavender Nikes, and I wore them every single day.

Well, it seemed like my time was filled up with walking and treatments and exercise and I showered regularly but, to tell you the truth, I did not pay much attention to fingernails and surely not to toenails.

But one day I looked at my beautiful shoes, and guess what I saw? Right on the very top of my right big toe was a hole. I leaned over to investigate and sticking out of that hole was a sharp, long big toenail.

My first thought was that I had to buy another pair just that color and style and fit and they’re not cheap.

Soon after this discovery, while in my exercise class, I made some remark out loud about all of this, and one of my friends here said that if I’d give my shoe to her she could fix it.

Well, you bet! How do you fix a hole except to sew it closed? My friend is an artist and I trust her but when I took the shoe to her she asked for both of them; I gave them to her, why not?

Two days later, she returned my holey shoe and its mate. But then, both shoes had identical holes in the top. And that’s not all – she had drawn around each hole a beautiful flower with indelible ink, and to complete her solution, she glued a little shiny gem in each hole.

Let me tell you something: My shoes, both of them, were works of art. I could not wait to put them on again. Every time I wore them, someone, even strangers in a doctor’s office, would comment on my beautiful lavender Nike. I’ve even been asked where they could buy a pair like them.

God bless my friend. She is a resident here, and she and her husband are from India. I honor her love and her creativity.

So, I have gone from smothering thirty pairs of shoes with Vaseline, even though I almost never wore them, to saving the one beautiful pair that I wear daily.

I wonder – do we have to grow old to realize what is truly important in life? And by the way, I have a new respect for keeping the nails cut short.

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