Dearest Rachel –
I’ve mentioned this before, but it is different to give these letters titles. I mean, if I were writing to you directly, a title wouldn’t make it any more eye-catching: you would read it because it came from me. No, the titles are meant to grab the eyes of those you’ve come after you who might wish to read my thoughts to you.
So I feel the need to explain some of the more curious titles, like this one. This is a phrase it’s usually used at the beginning of some public speech, where in the speaker tries to excuse his lack of familiarity with the “proper” ways of delivering such a public speech. Amusingly, I first encountered the title as the name of a Laurel and Hardy short – their first sound picture, appropriately.
All of which is a little bit misleading, as this letter isn’t really about speaking in public – or even speaking in private. I know WordPress offers the option to create a podcast, wherein each of these letters could have an audio counterpart. I’m not sure that my readership is large enough to justify that, and I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to begin at the beginning, and go through that first, horrible day in which I lost you.
No, this is about trying to get used to the (bleagh) “new normal” that is our life without you.
The story starts off with my birthday, which is kind of ironic, as tomorrow is Daniel’s. Don’t worry, I’m working on a letter to you about that that should be out within the next twelve to fifteen hours. Indeed, there may be multiple letters, one reflecting on the occasion of his birth and birthday, and perhaps another covering the events of the day. I haven’t decided; I do write some of these slightly ahead of time, but not always.
Anyway, the thing is that both of us are notoriously hard to shop for, as you know better than just about anyone. This year is particularly hard for us, as anything we want is either intangible (I asked Daniel what he wanted at one point and he said “revival”), impossible (both of us really want you back honey), or a problematic combination of both (failing being able to bring you back, I would really like to find… “Megumi,” and soon).
In an effort to come up with something, the folks asked me… if I needed new shoes. Of course, I’d already bought those running shoes (which I’m actually using more for walking rather than running, but whatever. It’s exercise), but there was a question of dress shoes. Now, while I do have a fair number of them, most of them are fairly old and used, and at best in need of a good polishing. In addition, what do I use dress shoes for? I don’t need to go into work, where I might need to dress in business casual. Even church is somewhat lax in it’s dress code (not that I have a problem with that), so it’s not like they’re necessary there, either. So, I admit to having shrugged off that suggestion.
Then came last week, when I was supposed to be working in the booth. Saturday night was of course ridiculously casual (for my part, I was wearing a T-shirt and jeans, not anyone actually sees me in the booth anyway), but I wanted to dress up a little on Sunday. The problem was, I couldn’t find my one favorite pair of dress shoes, the ones I could just slip into and head out. And I was running out of time, as I had to be there by eight.
Eventually, it got to the point where I had to just give up, and I put on my old black gym shoes, which at least were dark enough to pass muster if worst came to worst. The day passed without incident, at least as far as the shoes were concerned.
At dinner with the family, I related the story to the folks, and acknowledged that yes, apparently I could use a pair of dress shoes. I did suggest that the moment I conceded the point, the old shoes would probably reappear somehow.
Anyway, today is another Sunday – Father’s Day, no less – and again I’d like to see if I could put on some decent shoes for church. Besides, those dress shoes were comfortable: slip-on loafers that fit like gloves and looked reasonably dressy – what’s not to like?
I’m not sure why it occurred to me today, compared to last week. Maybe I was just in too much of a hurry, or panicking a bit back then, and didn’t think to look where I did (although I did wander through the entire house looking). But this morning, I just looked into my closet, and saw all the shoes lined up in there. Not the ones I was looking for, to be sure, but it gave me an idea. And I opened up your closet, or rather your portion of the laundry room closet.
And there, on the floor of your side of the closet, underneath my dress shirts and my winter clothes, were my dress shoes. The ones I’d been looking for.
Which brings me back to the title of this letter. The fact of the matter is, I’m not used to the way things are put away now. As part of the cleanup process, Jan has set up a system in this house as to where things go (or at least, should go), and I’m certainly not complaining about that, but I’m still not accustomed to it. I’m not accustomed to how it works, I’m not accustomed to having stuff where you used to be…
…and I’ll never get accustomed to the empty spaces that you left behind.
But it isn’t as if I have a choice.
At least, I know where my shoes are.