One day, when I was nine, I noticed my grandpa’s shoes. They were black leather with wing-tipped toes and funny boot lace hooks to help fasten the shoes more tightly around his ankle. My daddy didn’t wear such high-top shoes as those.
Grandma and Grandpa came down every other Sunday and Daddy would take us up there on the alternate Sabbath. One Sunday afternoon, after lunch, Grandpa sat in the living room in the side-chair with the round red foot stool next to it with his feet propped up. Lounging on the floor in front of the TV, I was low enough to get a real good look at those shoes. Don’t misunderstand, Mamma didn’t allow television programs to drown out company conversation, so the sound was off. But, I could be entertained with the black and white pictures as they danced across the screen.
Grandpa was always very quiet, shy actually. Mostly, he sat and listened to Momma and Grandma talk about the ordinarily activities of their day. Daddy usually fell asleep on the couch with one leg plopped up over the sofa’s back.
The problem was I didn’t talk much either. So, I’d just watch Grandpa and think about his choice in foot wear. I guess we were both introverts. As an example, when I was really little, Grandma and Grandpa still lived on the farm.
Did you notice what I said? We always announced Grandma’s name first since she was the one Momma talked to. So, it was Grandma’s house, but Grandpa’s farm. I’d follow him out to the barn to check on Dolly, the old retired plow horse, but I don’t remember talking to him. I can’t even remember the sound of his voice, but he was Grandpa and I loved him.
It was those shoes I wondered about. If I had thought to actually ask him a question, now, I can think of many I may have asked.
- “Grandpa, do your toes feel comfortable with your feet all bound up like that?”
- “Tell me where you find shoes like that. I shop with Momma and I’ve never seen that kind anywhere. They must come from a farm store up near your house.”
- “Did you wear those shoes because you twisted your ankle? I sprain mine real easy.”
- “Those shoes remind me of Albert Swartz’s clodhoppers he wears to school. Teacher doesn’t like those shoes because the hooks scrape the desk chair when he sits on his feet in class.”
- “Do you like the high-tops because they remind you of your work shoes? You’re a great farmer.” Then, I could get him to talk more by asking him about Dolly, how she’s doin’ and if she misses me.
Come to think about it, Grandpa did answer questions about the crops. You want to hear something amazing? Grandpa could drive by any field in the county and name the green shoots that were coming up, almost as soon as they pushed through the ground. I had no idea what was growing out there in all that dirt. Still, I could have gotten him to talk more, if I had thought to ask him about it. I had no idea that the green of field corn was different from that of soy beans, or that wheat can grow in the winter when it’s cold.
The point is if I had just asked him about those shoes, we may have talked about much more. As an adult I know—if you don’t know what an Extravert is thinking it’s because you haven’t been listening. And, if you don’t know what an Introvert is thinking, it’s because you haven’t asked them.”
Now, I think about Grandma and Grandpa often. After they moved into town off the farm, Grandpa drove out there almost every day. When Grandma was blind with cataracts, he would help her sweep the carpets and fix a hearty supper. One day I heard Grandma complain to Momma that Grandpa had started walking down the alley to a filling station and garage where he’d visit with the neighborhood men and drink a cola. She hoped he wouldn’t get into any trouble down there. Grandpa? I couldn’t imagine such a thing—not trouble—Grandpa talking.
Oh, the things I wish I had asked him when I was nine, “Tell me about . . .“ questions. About his parents; the home he grew up in; would he describe his room; what he liked to read when I saw him with a book in his hand; what was the name of his dog when he was ten; did he like chocolate as much as I did; and . . . where on earth did he get those shoes.