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Neat Feet

With the emergence of the sandal season slowly making it's appearance up in the northern hemisphere, I recently took it upon myself to pack my darling children up and head into the big city in search of some charming footwear that don't resemble mukluks or ski boots.

After silencing the chorus of whines with threats of bodily harm bribes of fast food for good behaviour, we finally got down to the business of shoe shopping. Shopping for shoes is serious business to me. My reputation as a mother is largely based on what type of foot wear my children toddle about in. (At least in my mind.) I try to hide from the world the fact we are a family of rednecks by shodding my children with good shoes.

(I no longer use animal skins and twine. It tended to be a dead giveaway, even if it was cost effective.)

Shoe shopping also has a more personal meaning to me than just buying the cutest footwear in the market.

After living through the trials my Shalebug endured, and the hell his own feet put him through, I see a shoe and appreciate how fortunate my children and myself are. We can simply try on a shoe. And walk, run, jump. Not everyone is so lucky. A shoe to me, is a reminder of health and how fragile it can be.

My son was born with stubborn bilateral club feet. My first glimpse of him after pushing him out of me with Herculean effort was his twisted purple feet. I knew immediately upon seeing them that my life would never be the same. I hadn't yet seen him, but the silence in the room was deafening. As I anxiously waited to hear his first cry (which came MONTHS later) the only part of his body that wasn't shielded from me by the worried backs of the nurses and doctors and his father were his tiny twisted feet. Which were so bent they almost touched his bum.

Months of casting and tendon releases followed with years of physiotherapy and multiple surgeries, eventually lead to bone removal and permantent splints. All of which did nothing to correct the curvature of his stunted little feet.

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I still have that razor sharp 4" long pin.

Feet that at first scared me and repulsed me. It wasn't the tubes or the breathing apparatus, or the bald patches shaved into his precious hair that made me fear this unknown baby. It was the grotesque nature of his hooves that freaked me out and made me doubt my ability to love and ultimately parent this child who was so different than my previous babies.

But like all things new and strange, time and understanding lessened this fear. Soon those feet became the focal point of my love for him. The first thing I kissed when he woke up in the morning, the last thing I kissed when he went to bed.

Those crooked tootsies represented all that he was and who he would be. Instead of curled feet I saw strength of spirit, resilency and the fragility of life when ever I massaged and stretched them. Those feet became part of who we were as a family unit. Everybody understood what those crooked feet meant.

Those feet meant love, understanding, patience and tolerance. Except for when he used them as weapons and would kick them at my glasses. Then they were a big pain in my ass. Or when he was casted and I took all the kiddies to the Shriner's Circus and he decided it would be great fun to bump his casts into the man's head who was seated directly in front of us. Then they were a source of amused embarrassment. Oops.

Those diminuitive little feet meant so much. When they grew strong enough to support his weight we were able to celebrate his fragile first toddling steps at the age of four. When they were gashed open and missing bones, they represented the hope for a brighter future. When they were finally fitted for his first pair of shoes months before his death, they were cause for celebration. Through it all, they were hurdles to overcome, challenges not to be forgotten.

They were his feet; they were my reminder of so many others out there who were not as blessed as I.

As Fric and Frac were ripping apart the shoe rack in search of the coolest, fastest and prettiest sandal out there, his angel feet were a reminder of who was missing, who is still loved, who is not to be forgotten.

The kids and I found our booty (get it...booty? Couldn't resist) We walked to the front of the store and paid for our shoes, all of us excited by our finds. But as we walked out to our car, there was a little girl in leg braces similar to Bugs, being carried in by her father, with her mom walking wearily behind them.

I saw in that mom the same love, strength and fear I see when I look in the mirror. I knew the pain she would feel when she tried on endless pairs of shoes on her daughter, hoping to find ONE pair that would fit around those plastic pain's in the ass. I wanted to tell her not to bother, just go get custom shoes made, as we had to do.

But I thought better of it. I didn't want to intrude. I didn't want to take away the hope she harboured when she saw those cute pink sparkly runners she would pray to fit her daughter. To make her daughter look more "normal." To make herself feel more like the average mom.

Maybe she would have better luck than I ever did, in search of the elusive shoe to fit my special child's special feet. And if she didn't she may not welcome my advice, my taking away her search for normalcy with my insight, my knowledge.

I didn't take into account my children's interest in those shiny purple plastic splints. They raced right up to that brown haired girl and her parents and struck up a conversation.

"My brother had club feet! Does she? His splints were purple too! But they had stars on them, not kittens."

I held my breath for a second, wondering if this family would resent my children honing on their child's obvious disability. But the dad just bent down and looked my kids in the eye and asked about their little brother. They yammered away to these strangers outside the shoe store, spilling their brother's and now their story and how when Bug was finally able to get shoes he started to walk. They gushed on in the way excited kids do that once this little girl got her shoes soon she would be walking too.

I don't know if that would hold true for that little girl, but I certainly wished with all my might that it would. The little girl was fascinated with my kids, excited that some big kids were interested in her. My heart broke a little when I realized Fric and Frac missed their brother so much that a child with similar splints would speak to their hearts so deeply.

The mom reached down and stroked my son's prickly head and told them how lucky their brother was to have such nice siblings. She then scooped up her daughter and told the kids they were blessed to have such a special brother with such neat feet.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

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I miss those toes.
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Reader Comments (65)

Your love for him comes through so strongly in your writing. It's beautiful.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermetro mama

Amazing ! How blessed you all were to have had such an amazing son/brother as was he to have had such a loving family.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWorker Mommy

Damnit, you made me cry again. I am amazed at the simple things that bring up the memories for you. I am even more amazed at how wonderfully you put them into words.

I wont be complaining the next time I dont find a pair of shoes in my size.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

I've got to stop reading you at work, silent tears at my desk don't inspire confidence in my co-workers.

I think this is one of your best posts. So heartfelt and so honest. And bless Fric and Frac, what wonderful children you have raised. I wish I could know you all.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

Your kids are wonderful, all three of them. And you're wonderful, too. *hug*

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Oh wow, T. My keyboard is all soggy with tears now. That was beautiful.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKyla

I read your entire Bug Blog the other day and marvel yet again today at the strength and capacity for love that you possess. You're a remarkable writer and human being.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjasmine

Getting up and getting a tissue now...
(((HUGS)))from Ohio.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterShana

At least you have the decency to mark these posts "tearjerkers" so that sobbing buffoons like me are forewarned. Thank you, T. LOVE YOU.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterstefanierj

RM, you made me cry with this one.

Man oh man.

Your family is freakin' fantastic, y'know?

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterslouching mom

This story really sums up your story as I've come to understand it through your blog. The characters, the story, the sadness, and the humor laced through it all are all here. It's a neat feat.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBinky

Bad sign: my first visit to your site and I'm already blubbering....

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

The simple things in life we take for granted.

Fric and Frac, now where was the women who interviewed them when ya need her. They sounds like amazing kids.

Excuse me now as I go in search of some kleenex.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjacquie

I'm not believing another mean thing you say about Fric and Frac. They're fantastic.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermy float

*getting a tissue*

That's so lovely that Fric and Frac feel no inhibition about the memory of Bug and openly showing their love for him.


June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTiger Lamb Girl

oh my gentle jesus, T, you've got me sobbing. and in such a lovely way, so much sweetness with the sadness. those precious little feet. those little, empty shoes.

thank you for sharing Bug with us. thank you for letting us be part of your remembrance...your love for him comes through fiercely.

i hope another little child with special feet will find his or her way to you, and soon. because every little child should have his or her feet kissed in the morning, and loved for what they are. and you're teaching us all to do that.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterbon

That little Bug. He keeps on giving to all of us.

I bet you miss those toes Redneck. And I love how open and comfortable Fric and Frac are, I bet they made those parents day.


June 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commentercrazymumma

Those are precious little shoes.
It's great that Fric and Frac remember things about their brother. Probably things you don't even think about...like the purple splints.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterkimmyk

I love your blogs ... love them ... thank you for sharing YOU and all of YOU! You never hold back you put it all out there ... I love it and of course I am crying! Your kids are awesome and you are all blessed to have the love of Bug!

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMBKimmy

The way you talk about Shalebug gets me every. single. time. You're so amazing with words T.

Those adoption people are out of their damn MINDS if they don't give you a kid - pronto! How could they not see how GREAT you and your family are?! I'd give you an enter transport FULL of special children.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersam

Aw hell, T, you made me cry again.
I think I love your kids. But no they can't come live with me when they hog your computer.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBethany

Beautiful, so absolutely beautiful.

Your post has truly touched me. Thank you very much for sharing with us.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBloor West Mama

And yet the moron adoption people debate whether or not you and your family are able to care for another.

Assclowns, I say!

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAbove Average Joe

Aw, damn, RM. You've made me cry.

Shalebug was very lucky to have you all.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLawyerMama

You made cry again, damnit!!!! And feel lucky, blessed for no reason at all, at random. Not because I'm such a great mom, but because it was a roll of the genetic dice.
Your kids are so awesome. A sign of EXCELLENT child rearing.
You should be so proud.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer McKenzie

Tear jerker indeed.

I finally had the courage to put you on my blog reader last week(after many boxes of kleenex were used during my first visit), and here I am sniffling again.

It really was a beautiful post though. Really.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commentercanape

Wow. If I knew how to give a perfect post award or was qualified to (I don't have a blog), this would be it. Powerful and beautiful. You have a very special family. Thank you for sharing it with us.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTory

Don't you wish you could have had a video of that to show the adoption people????

Beautifully written!

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterErin

oh, honey. you are so special. you so are.

June 7, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjen

No, that's not a tear on my keyboard - something flew into my eye...

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commentercreative-type dad

Perfect. All of you.

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commentercarrie

Thanks for sharing this, and all the painful things you write about. I hope it helps you like it helps us. I am glad your kids still love and remember their brother. Maybe the adoption people should read your blog. Give us their address and we can all write to them.

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTuffenuf

Those wonderful kids of yours. We should all be so warm and natural and welcoming.

And Bub's feet were the first part of him I began to love too, through the post-partum haze that had made me doubt my ability to be a mother. There really is something in that concept of foot-washing, the sheer vulnerability of feet.

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterbubandpie

I have no words, hon. You took my breath away.

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Chicky

In a word: beautiful. Seriously.

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermamatulip

No wonder those children are so amazing...check out their mom!

That Bug couldn't be loved more.

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMammaLoves

Just when I think you're done making me tear up, you through another boomerang at me.
You're freakin' awesome, you know that right?

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJ.

Okay, I haven't even had my coffee yet but I'm bawling. That story is so sweet. Really beautiful.

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterwhitetrashmom

You should print this post off to give to the adoption people, T - it is everything you all have all rolled up into one - love, sadness, pride, strength, joy, and more love, obvious on the part of both you and the kids. You have an amazing gift, my friend.

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFishyGirl

You just made me lose it at work.

Beautiful post. Absolutely beautiful.

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterArkie Mama

Very nice post. A mothers/parent's love knows no bounds.

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterLarryLilly

I see now how you try to get through this - one step at a time.
Another beautiful tribute to a little boy I love getting to know.

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterkgirl

What a great moment. And you have to say nice things about Fric and Frac for at least a week now. Well, okay, at least until tomorrow.

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEm

Fric and Frac are incredible kids lady.

You, you make me count blessings and rejoice in yours. Thank you for sharing Bug. You also make me sloppy cry.


June 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMamaMichelsBabies

Those feet, those shoes...my heart.

Thank you for sharing, T.

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

Oh wow, speechless and teary. Such little shoes and such big hearts. You must be so proud of all your children!

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterginabee

As I just found out I get to spin the genetic wheel of fortune once again you remind me that no matter what eventuates love is all I need. thankyou for sharing your beautiful family with us

June 8, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Searing wit and piercing tenderness. Just beautiful.

June 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenteramanda

You made my cry, again!

It's amazing how hard we work at trying to make our kids appear normal, so they'll be more easily accepted. I do the same with Katie everyday. She has to be clean and nicely dressed. And it breaks my heart when people don't see past the drool and the mouth hanging open, to see a beautiful little girl who just wants to say hello to the world.

June 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterdeb

I don't know what else to say other than I was really touched by this post.

June 10, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterPatty House

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