... Dad's rubber boots

Sent: Friday, November 26, 1999 10:23 AM

I had this epiphany about walking in my dad's boots last weekend, sitting on a log in a wetland, pouring water out of his old fireman's boots. Boots that go back over 50 years.

They are boots that he wore and outgrew and that I grew into, and that I eventually "borrowed" from him more and more permanently until I never took them back and he did not appear to notice the loss.

I have done a lot of things in those boots - delivering morning newspapers in the snow, sneaking around at the Nike missile base on Cougar Mountain when I was in High School, they hiked out to Lake Ozette and up the beach to the archeological dig long before there was a real boardwalk through the cedar swamps - they spent the whole month of February 1968 at Hole in the Wall out at Flattery Cape, they walked me up the Hoh River in the winter of '73.

They went along with me planting trees in the Cascades in '74. They cleared the woods at Cape George Wye when I moved to Port Townsend. They walked me all the way to the lighthouse at the end of Dungeness Spit, and kayaked out there in the biggest storm and the scariest waves I have ever paddled in.

They have seen a lot of scenery go by, and I have thought about a lot of things while I was wearing them. I learned where the tops of the boots were about as well as I knew the other edges of my body and I can count the times I stepped in water that went over the top of both of them on the fingers of one hand.

Last weekend was one of those times, and last weekend I had to confront the fact that they are finally wearing out.

So I went to Seattle yesterday to have an informal thanksgiving dinner with my folks, and I took them. I went in to talk to my dad about life and the things I had seen wearing his boots - about the paths of our lives and all that stuff that inevitably comes up when one accepts that the "top" of the supply of sand in his hourglass is actually coming into view, and more importantly, that the supply of sand is running out faster than it used to.

He had not seen the boots for about 35 years and had assumed they had been thrown out in one of the household moves. Had no absolutely idea that I still had them. And yet, here they were - they are really the ONLY thing I have left from my childhood that I have not lost.

I got to tell them the story about sitting on the log, and how I got there, and some of what I had realized. And he got to tell me about the fire department in Des Moines after W.W.II. They were an all-volunteer Fire Department and they built their own truck. There were none for sale after the war.

They got a big truck chassis and a huge tank and a pump and a gas welder and bunch of steel plate and some tools and built the fire truck. At which point they had the only firetruck between Seattle and Tacoma! So there were lots of calls to use it. He was a fireman at first - until there was a fire at his house and after that he was their attorney. I remember watching fires get put out, bright yellow flames against the night - sparks rising up on the wind- from a vantage point on the side of the truck. I'll put more detail in here in a bit, because I have a bunch of old photos that should have the boots in them, pictures going back to me at about age 6, but I am going to go back in to Seattle today to spend more time in his company.

My folks both retired a little over a year ago, and have finally been learning to live together, without external lives and offices to go to every morning. When they retired I got them 2 computers to hook together over a network. They were convinced that was overkill - that they could work fine on one. This summer they realized they could not. So as of this morning I almost have the second computer at their house ready for mom to use, so that they don't have to disagree about management of a single machine, because after about 20 years of learning their own ways of developing idiosyncratic styles of dealing with files and their organization, neither is about to change right away.

©Joe Breskin November 1999 -
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