Guest Blog from Sophy: Walk a Mile in His Shoes

John McManamy Health Guide
  • It was a beautiful Saturday night. The air was clear, and crisp. The heat wave had broken, and it was actually cool enough for longer pants and a sweatshirt.

    Hubby and I were at an open air theatre on a romantic date in a beautiful park-like setting. There is nothing like seeing live theatre in this kind of environment. It reminds me of the real old venues the ancient Greeks would have produced their plays in. The actors were not miked, and the audience could really get into the production.

    We were waiting to enter this theatre, when I overheard the woman behind me make a comment about one of the actors. This particular actor was the reason we were here. He happened to be “one of us.”
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    I grew up in a very small town. Ninety-eight kids in my high school graduating class. My parents have lived in this town since the 50s, and they know all the old town families, as do I. This woman made a comment about the actor - and indicated he was strange. She did not know this person’s history, and obviously she had no idea what he had to struggle with. She was extremely judgmental. It made me sick.

    In sixth grade I struggled through Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I can vividly recall all these years later how Atticus, the father, told his daughter you cannot judge a man until you walk in his shoes. At the end of the novel, Scout, in order to save her brother’s life, climbs on Boo Radley’s porch and puts her tiny, childlike feet into his size tens and rings the doorbell. Now she understands what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes.

    As a child, I loved to walk in my father’s shoes. I would put my little baby feet in his size nines and try to walk around the house. They fit me like clown shoes. I could not understand my father, or maybe I understood him too well. He had experienced some life-changing events that had turned his happy-go-lucky disposition to melancholy. He was in World War II, called up during the last three months of the war, and saw things in Europe that would have made Christ and his Saints weep. His mother died while he was still in his 20s, and he was devoted to her. He took it hard. He worked half his life in a job he hated, but he was too afraid to look for something else. He was afraid of the unknown. It was the only job he knew since he got out of the army, and suffering from a case of inertia, he didn’t or couldn’t look elsewhere.

    Dad’s refuge was baseball. He loved the baseball teams of the 50s, the Yankees under DiMaggio, the New York Giants. As a child he went to Brooklyn Dodgers games, and mourned when Walter O’Malley moved the team to LA.

    He suffered from low grade depression all his adult life, hating the job he had, loving his family and working solely for them. He suffered from PTSD, but that wasn’t known back in his day. I know he suffered from flashbacks from the army. To this day, he will not talk about anything other than basic training.

    Yet when I was in the hospital from my first suicide attempt, dad looked at me, half with love, half abashed. He could not will himself to understand. He could understand wanting to die, to destroy yourself by your own hand, but to do it - this was an alien concept. He always stopped the thoughts. I didn’t. I was weak in his eyes. A failure.

  • There by the grace of God go I. I could put myself in his shoes; he couldn’t put himself in mine. We could both pick up a gun to play Russian roulette, he put his down immediately. I spun the cartridge and fired. Not once but four hospitalizations. Not once, but at least six attempts.
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    My father cannot understand, but at least he tries. His unconditional parental love assures me of that. These women I overheard outside the theatre couldn’t even do that. They chose to sit in judgment. They had no right to judge. The only shoes they had walked in were each other’s Guccis..

    Scout became a better person when she wore Boo’s shoes. I became closer to my father by wearing his.

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Published On: October 05, 2006