Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Vans Down by the River

 It is with a heavy heart that I pronounce my beloved Yo Gabba Gabba Slip-On Vans officially…*sniffle*…DEAD.  They have suffered the woes of wear and finally cannot go on.

The carnage. My cat, Selina looks away, blinking away his tears.
Of course I'm being dramatic.  But I really am quite upset over this. These shoes have served me in ways that nothing else has. These shoes have been with me through a lot, and always came through when I needed them.
Not kidding.
I bought these shoes 4 years ago, just 3 weeks before my stroke.  We had been out shopping for a new pair of shoes for my son when I noticed these on sale.  Why on earth would I look at shoes at Journeys Kidz? Because I stand 4 feet 10 ¾ inches  tall, and my shoe size is 3 in Little Kids.  Finding shoes is a nightmare.  I avoid shoe shopping because it invokes in me a passionate fury.  When I saw these, I thought “oh they’re so cute! I wonder if they’ll fit!” And they did. *cue angels singing*  I worked in a corporate office back then.  I already had a reputation for being a little eccentric so of course I wore them to work.  I mean, of course.   How could I not show these off? 

My beloved Vans, brand spankin' new.
I wore them to work on June 8, 2011.  I remember that day because that was the last day I ever went to work.  That day, I had an ischemic stroke in my left brain stem.  I didn’t understand what was happening but I knew something was wrong.  My co-worker urged me to call my husband to come pick me up.  While we didn’t know it was a stroke, it was clear I shouldn’t attempt to drive home.  I ended up in an ambulance later that day headed for the ER.  Over the next 3 days I lost all use of the right side of my body.  The Neurologist explained it was an evolving stroke.  It didn’t just strike and leave; it struck and didn’t stop.  By the third day I had total paralysis on the right side, save for my face.  I didn’t get to wear shoes much for the next week while I remained in the ICU, so my Vans – my fun, colorful, conversation-starting Vans – stayed tucked away in that big plastic hospital bag marked “PATIENT BELONGINGS.”  Those stupid bags.  I hate them.  I’ve never been to prison but I imagine that’s what it feels like.  Forced to strip naked and all of your possessions reduced to a damn plastic bag.  I couldn’t even keep my bra on!  Holy mom boobs, Batman have you people no mercy?

Whole world. Right here. And they NEVER write your name on it. Fascists!

After 8 days or so they shipped me and my bulging plastic bag of all that remained of civilization to inpatient rehab.  At this point, I was wheelchair-bound but not able to push myself or get in or out of it in my own.  This is where I would learn to do that, and eventually to walk again.  So I got to wear my Vans. 

Me, wheelin' to the cafeteria, desperately hoping they'll let us have salt today.

Four years later, I still suffer from “drop foot.”  This means that even though I can walk with a walker or a cane, my right ankle still hasn’t learned to move again.  My foot just hangs there.  Try putting on a pair of shoes without using your ankle.  Try it.  HA!  It sucks balls, doesn’t it?  Not only can I not put on certain shoes, very few shoes will even stay on while I walk.  I’m a California native.  I’m fairly certain there’s a state law declaring flip-flops our state shoe.  I mourned the day I threw my collection (yes, collection) away because I could no longer wear them.  I did try wearing Converse and other lace-up sneakers but my right hand and fingers have a hell of a time getting those on.  If I’m in a hurry or already too fatigued for the day, that’s just not a fight I’m up for.

My Vans were slip-ons.  Masterfully designed to stretch and conform to the foot and not need any stupid laces.  And they stayed on.  And…AND they were a perfect SIZE 3.  Oh sure there are other Vans out there.  But they’re not MY Vans.  They didn’t hold me in place when I rose from my hospital bed for the very first time to try to stand.  They didn’t help my good foot push my wheelchair all around the rehab place fighting to reclaim some independence, or help me hold my toddler’s hand to take a walk around our building for the first time.  These filthy broken shoes look like they should be tossed in the river and forgotten.  But I can’t let them go yet.  These Vans, the ones broken in to my tiny swollen feet, walked this road to recovery with me.