New Friends and Shoe Tires

When my new friend Julie called me Wednesday night to see if we were still on for lunch the next afternoon, I wasn't sure. This was the week of the big snow, then ice, then more snow. I hadn't been out of my living space in days. I wasn't sure if I could

When my new friend Julie called me Wednesday night to see if we were still on for lunch the next afternoon, I wasn’t sure. This was the week of the big snow, then ice, then more snow.

I hadn’t been out of my living space in days. I wasn’t sure if I could walk on the stuff.

Let me explain: I have neuropathy in my feet, nerve damage brought on by diabetes. When it snows, I struggle a bit to walk and when there’s ice, yes, I’m literally like an old woman walking on it.

But I felt house-bound and wanted to see Julie. We had plans to go to JeanRo Bistro on Vine Street downtown. Julie is from Paris, France and says eating there always makes her feel like she’s back home.

On Thursday morning, I called her to say we were still on. I was feeling a bit confident that I could get out because I’d just gotten shoe tires for my feet.

The shoe tires are called Stabilicers. You slip them on over your shoes. They have case-hardened steel cleats that bite into the snow, ice or sleet. I found them by doing a Google search.

Around 11:30 on that Thursday morning, with extreme confidence I could make it to the bus stop without breaking a hip, I left Westwood and started my adventure. My confidence lasted maybe a minute.

My shoe tires worked fine, but it was hard for my nerve-damaged feet to adjust to the uneven sidewalks that were still covered with snow and ice. I almost slipped immediately.

Not wanting to give up, I went to the road instead. It was somewhat better but not much. I marched on while slipping and sliding. At the rate I was going, I would get to the bus stop by spring.

Kathy, another new friend and also a neighbor on my street, was out walking with her baby strapped to her back. She noticed I was struggling. Hell, a blind person could.

After she asked me where I was heading, she grabbed on to me, determined to help me make it to the bus stop.

We must have been quite a sight — me holding on for dear life to this little woman with a baby strapped on her back.

The baby’s name is Patrick. Every once in a while I’d look over at him with that pacifier in his mouth. He was giving me this look like “Who the hell is this old fart holding on to my mother?”

Patrick was holding on to a toothbrush. Kathy told me he has a baby toothbrush at home but likes to hold on to an adult one like Mommy and Daddy use. I didn’t think to ask if she was also carting along a tube of toothpaste.

At Werk Road, Kathy and Patrick waited with me until the bus arrived. While it first seemed that I wouldn’t make to the bus stop on time, I actually had a couple minutes to spare.

After getting downtown, I met up with Julie at Fountain Square. I was still a bit shaky on my feet, but she helped me make it to JeanRo.

The more we walked, the more I realized the shoe tires were working. I started to get my confidence back.

It felt good to have a relaxing lunch. Julie had the steak frites classique. I had “Coq au Vin,” chicken in red wine sauce.

Over great food and red wine, I got to know my French friend better. We talked about a number of things, none of which I can write about here. I made a promise to Julie that just because my life’s an open book I shouldn’t make hers the same.

After lunch, we both had errands to run, but in opposite directions. At Fifth and Vine we hugged and parted ways.

As I ran my errands — “ran” is a poor choice of words; let’s say I walked with caution — I noticed people were staring at my feet. Yes, those shoe tires did look a bit funny, but I was walking pretty well even on the sidewalks that were still snow- and ice-covered.

Maybe the three glasses of wine I had at lunch influenced my thinking, but I was feeling like Superman who just happened to have neuropathy in his feet.

After the errands, I got tired. I thought about snow-covered and icy Westwood and catching a bus.

Screw it. I hailed a taxi.

That night, I got a call from Julie wanting to make sure I made it home alright. I did. We agreed that it was nice to have this new friendship.

Later that night, as I brushed my teeth, I noticed my toothbrush was exactly the same size and color of Patrick’s. Smiling, I remembered his holding his adult toothbrush as his mother helped me make it to the bus stop.

The next morning, on Friday, I got a call from Kathy. She said she was going to the grocery, wanted to know if I needed anything. I didn’t, but I thanked her for calling and also for her help the previous day.

I stayed in on Friday. We had more snow that morning, and I didn’t want to press my luck. But if this damn winter weather keeps up, I’ll have to start thinking I’m Superman again.

Luckily, I have those shoe tires waiting in my closet.

CONTACT LARRY GROSS: [email protected]

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