Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Wingtips


“Hon, do you have good black dress shoes?” my wife asked as we packed for our trip north for our granddaughter’s chain of May social events. 

May has become more than just the climax of the academic season, wrapping up not only the scholastic year, but dance classes, chorus, music lessons, and just about every other after school activity a student can be enrolled in. This year was even more special with our granddaughter’s communion, so it was time to dry-clean suits and dig out the old shoes I haven’t worn in years.

“Sure,” I replied, “I still have my old wingtips from when I left IBM. Let me dig them out, they're in a closet somewhere.” I tossed out my last pair of black loafers, my semi-official footwear for formal events here in Florida, a couple of months ago.

As I pulled out my comfortable old friends from the back of my closet where they had resided under assorted bags and boxes, I suddenly faced my own mortality. No longer the spit-shined, combat boots of corporate America, they were now sadly distressed, forlorn, shockingly aged almost beyond recognition. They were far removed from being the forefront of the uniform of confidence and determination I remembered when I placed them there over twenty years ago. I naively thought they could be pulled out at any time and once again be worn with the distinction and authority they once held in the arena of interpersonal combat in the world of corporate America.

I stared at the faded, cracked shoe leather. Pieces of the polished leather had peeled off, exposing the vulnerable, soft under-skin of the shoes I had worn so many times. I turned the shoes over, the soles were as good as new. I had replaced the soles twice in the wingtip’s lifetime and the soles were still ready. Ready to stride confidently into a customer’s meeting or a region seminar. The uppers however, were like me; no longer ready to stand in front of a crowd from behind a podium or stand toe to toe with a competitor.



I had placed them in the back of my closet, complete with wooden shoe trees in them to keep their shape back when I retired. They were highly polished the last time I saw them, ready to be put into service at a moment’s notice. They had spent the last quarter century in retirement, but they were no longer serviceable. My old standbys, my stalwart support in the face of perils that could not intimidate them, unfortunately could not answer the call to duty. 

I couldn’t help but be nostalgic as I stood there looking at my past, the memories of a quarter of a century ago. I carefully carried them out into the garage and as one last gesture, photographed them. Then they went into the trash.

I walked back into the house. “Hey, Hon, we’ve got to go shopping. I need new black shoes.”

But the new ones won’t be wingtips. They may not even have laces. A pair of nice slip-ons will do nicely.