Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thinking (tw)ice

If you heard about an 82-year-old man who, on a snowy, icy and windy Sunday -- after taking his wife to catch a pre-dawn flight to attend her brother's funeral -- decided to drive 100 miles home before the sand trucks had ventured out, what would you say?

If you knew my father, your answer would be easy: "Oh, that Eddie."

Not much stops my dad. Not a nosebleed that can't be controlled; not a broken foot caused by kicking a stubborn sheep (who never felt a thing, by the way); not various falls to the ground; not a few serious skin cancers.

And certainly not a little (or a lot of) ice. After all, he had to get home. The dogs and donkeys needed feeding, the plants to be brought in from the front porch, a nap to be taken in his own chair.

Still, when my sister Susan told me at 8:30 this morning that Dad was on I-30 headed east, I first texted back: "Why?" to which she replied, "Cuz he's Dad."

"Eddie is invincible," I replied.

Just to make sure, though, I knocked wood, tossed salt over my shoulder and began my oft-repeated, "Please let Daddy (fill in the blank)" prayer.

She sent back a note two hours later: "I called the house and his cell phone and there's no answer," she said.

I saw that note after I saw the next one: "He made it," she wrote, and added a smiley face.

I called to tell him I was glad he was OK, and, yes, to admonish him a bit for driving in this.

"Well, it was slippery," he acknowledged. "The sand trucks hadn't been out, and there were a couple of places on the overpasses where I skidded a little."

"I'm so glad you're OK," I said.

"Oh honey, of course," he said.

There's a fine line between courageous and crazy, between determined and stubborn, between aware and oblivious. Frankly, much of the time, I'm not sure on which side my dad leans. But as long as he doesn't stumble, and as long as he keeps answering the phone, it doesn't really matter.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Watching out

The man who came into the running store held the door open with his foot while he pushed a kid-cool wheelchair inside. He was upbeat and friendly as he maneuvered the chair to the shoe wall. I asked his name.

"Jeff," he said.

"I'm Leslie. Who's your friend here?" I asked, kneeling to look at her eye-level.

"That's Katie, my daughter," he said. "She's 13."

"Nice to meet you," I said.

Katie's brown hair was held back from her forehead with a white headband. Her tennis shoes were pink and white, her bare legs smooth and slender. She didn't answer when her dad or I spoke to her, or seem to understand what we said. But she tilted her face toward her father, and seemed comfortable and happy.

At one point, I asked if she'd like to hold the teddy bear we keep, along with other toys, in a corner for antsy children. "What do you think, Katie?" he asked, then answered me, "Thank you, but I think she's fine."

He talked to her some as he tried on the shoes. "Katie, I'm going to walk around the store for a minute," he said. Or "How do you like these, Katie?"

He bought the shoes and put the box on Katie's lap. When they reached the door, Andrew, one of my colleagues, dashed out from around the counter to open it for him. He came back to the desk where a few of us were standing.

"Do you know what's wrong with her?" he asked.

No, I told him, only that she didn't seem to be able to do anything for herself.

Andrew fiddled with one of the rubber bracelets on his arm. "My cousin's son is disabled," he said, "and his parents have started a foundation for him that raises money to buy playground equipment for disabled children. That's what this bracelet is.

"Do you think that man would mind if I gave it to him, and told him about the foundation?"

We looked out the window. Jeff had slid open the side door to his van and was lifting Katie's wheelchair inside.

"Not at all," I said. "Go! Hurry!"

Andrew quickly scribbled down the foundation's website, grabbed the piece of paper and ran outside. He returned a minute or so later.

"What did he say?" I asked.

"He said thank you very much," Andrew said.

Just another reminder that 1. I work with some really wonderful people. And 2. We really are all in this together.

Here's the website, by the way:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stepping out

Sometimes at the running store, I'm still a techno-talk neophyte when it comes to explaining how one shoe differs from another. Still, I'm pretty good at matching feet to shoes. Or, as I like to tell customers, "helping you find the most comfortable shoes you have ever worn in your entire life."

But where I falter in shoe-speak, I find my footing in chitchat. I like learning what (if any) training someone is doing. Why that person has decided to walk, or to run, or to keep doing either, or to simply find shoes that won't hurt his feet. I have been with people for as little as 10 minutes, or as long as one-and-a-half hours.

When I fit them into the right shoes, I'm happy. When I can make them smile or laugh, I beam.

That said, here are a few faves from the last few weeks.

1. The history-wearer. The man named Rich didn't know the treasure he wore on his feet. He just knew the Brooks Adrenaline had served him well. So I brought out a newer model. He tried them on, proclaimed them perfect, stood up and walked around to make doubly sure.
At that point Daniel, our assistant manager, was passing by. "Oh my GOSH!" he said, spotting the old shoes. He picked one up, looked it over and said, "How long have you had these?"
"Ten years," Rich said.
"They're the original Adrenalines!" Dan said, calling over another colleague to look at them. "I've never seen these before!"
"You can have them if you'd like," Rich said.
Daniel thanked him profusely and put the shoes in a glassed-in section of the front desk. He printed out a label giving Rich credit for his donation. It was pretty exciting. I think we all felt a bit like winners in our own version of Antiques Roadshow.

2. The father & daughter. Confession: When the heavyset man came in wearing a White Rock Marathon t-shirt, I didn't think it was his. I am happy that it was, because it furthers my belief that anyone can have the passion, and that anyone can run.
He brought his daughter in. They're running her first half marathon together this Sunday, and he wanted her to have the right shoes. She's 13, a teen-ager who texted her friends between try-ons; a little girl who giggled when I told her the red Nikes were just right for her foot, and who pranced around to show her dad how they looked.
Interesting, what you can learn about someone in an hour-and-a-half. The girl's favorite color is red. She had just moved from her mother's home in another city into her dad's. She has a sister. He has a girlfriend who is coming in town to run the half with them. Father and daughter seemed so easy, so respectful, so comfortable with each other.
After she found her shoes, he decided he wanted some, too. Six pairs later, he decided on the very first ones he'd tried on, which were the same make and model he was wearing. That was fine with me; I enjoyed their company, and feeling part of something rather special.

3. The hero. The tall, blondish man said he was just starting to run again after five years. So yeah, of course I asked the story of why. He told me he was four months away from running his fourth White Rock marathon. One night, he was home with his year-old daughter when they next-door neighbor's house caught on fire. He ran onto his roof to spray it with water and protect it -- and thus his daughter and his home -- against the fast-approaching flames.
The firefighters, seeing how close the fire was, screamed at him to get off the roof. So he jumped, breaking both ankles. The day after surgery, he asked his doctor if he could run again. The reply: "Right now, you're lucky to be able to walk."
Five years later, he runs fewer miles in a week than what he'd run on a long Sunday run. But he's learned a lot -- about capabilities, about strength, about the human spirit. And he, unlike most of us, takes nothing for granted.

4. The size observer.
We noticed her shoes as she walked in: Four-inch patent-leather heels.
I fitted her into a pair or running shoes that seemed much more comfortable. She was happy with them; I was relieved when I was able to talk her into a bigger size. She was very nice but, as way too many customers are, overly concerned with sizes. Clothing, I can sort of see. But none of us has control over the size of shoe we wear.
I put her shoebox on the counter and took her to look at apparel. She selected a sleeveless top.
"I think I'd wear the small," she said. "What do you think?"
My eyes tried to avoid her cleavage (read: ample bosom) that was never intended to fit into the built-in bra of a small (or even a medium) size. We didn't have a medium so I tried to be diplomatic.
"Well," I said, "you're a bit...well endowed for a small, I think. How about if you try a small and a large and see if maybe the medium would be the right size. Then I could get it from another store."
"Oh I could never wear a large," she said.
She found a medium in another color and carried it to the dressing room. A few minutes later, she called me in.
"Look," she said. "The medium is just perfect isn't it."
It wasn't a question, so I didn't feel compelled to totally answer.
"That is such a pretty pattern, and the color looks really good on you," I said. "How does it feel?"
"It feels great," she said.
"That's the important thing," I said. "I think you should get it."