“It was October of my senior year in high school when my grandpa died. I already wasn’t having a good year and taking a road trip with my parents and my kid sister to rural South Dakota–isn’t all of South Dakota rural?–was not my preferred method of ditching a week of school. Plus I’d loved my grandpa. We didn’t get to see him a lot, but he had a knack for making a kid feel like what he said and thought mattered.
The rest of the family lived closer than us, so they’d made it to his old farmhouse a day or two before we did. It was easy to see that most everybody had reached a point where they’d eaten and drunk too much and gotten all their nostalgia out of the way. They were ready to rehash old battles, argue over who should get what stuff, and generally be jerks. Nobody was talking about Grandpa.
After a couple of hours of listening to them and eating yet another scoop of another casserole brought by basically the entire population of South Dakota, I slipped into Grandpa’s room, sat on his bed–way too soft–and stared at the floor for a while. I was considering taking a nap when I noticed his old work boots tucked under his dresser. They couldn’t possibly be the same ones he’d worn when I was a kid, but they looked the same. They reminded me of times when he and I walked around the property before he’d gotten too old to farm and sold most of it off. Or when we’d slosh through the muddy ground that led to the pond where he taught me to fish. I thought of rides on the tractor, feeding the cows, and trying to make the mules let me ride them–they never did. I thought of the year he bought goats and the goats decided they wanted to live in the house. His goat stories had made my sister and me laugh so hard she’d peed her pants, but Grandpa just did some laundry and kept her secret.
I slid out of my Chucks and stuffed them into the oversized pockets of my army surplus field jacket that my mother hated. Then I slipped into Grandpa’s boots, laced them up, and stood. They were a perfect fit. I was pretty sure nobody was going to notice the battered old boots as long as I didn’t call attention to them, but I still tried to make myself invisible as I walked through the scattered groups of quarrelsome family members and outside to our car, where I hid my sneakers under the driver’s seat.
I turned to go back inside and almost stumbled when my feet suddenly decided to take a sharp left. I shook my head and again tried to turn toward the house, but my feet were not cooperating.
Or maybe it wasn’t my feet. The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I considered that Grandpa’s boots just might have their own plan for where I was going next.”
I take photos. I write. Mostly I only take photos of Rescued Pets Movement’s rescued dogs and cats. Since working and volunteering don’t leave me a lot of time to write, I’m spending 2017 borrowing from what these dogs and cats are writing. They said it’s okay.