Tennis Shoes

This week I finally bought a new pair of tennis shoes. I’m chronically indecisive, especially when buying a new pair of tennis shoes…online. I bought a pair and returned them (#America). I looked and looked and looked some more, called, ordered, changed my mind last minute, and finalized my order.

The shoes arrived right to my front door. The wonders of two-day shipping. The conveniences of America. I opened the box and tried them on.

With my new shoes on, I am in the therapy room in the clinic in Onaville, Haiti with Madamoiselle Pascal. I’m back in the heat of Haiti, sweating in that sunny room with one of my favorite patients turned friend. I gave her a pair of my tennis shoes that I had brought to Haiti because I wanted her to have supportive footwear and I really needed her to wear her ankle foot orthosis to keep her dropping right foot in a dorsiflexed position.

I was so proud of her once she could do a soccer exercise with me, kicking the ball back to me as I excitedly encouraged. It took almost a year of therapy to get to that point. In the therapy room we would banter back and forth, my broken Creole, obnoxious voice, and excessive hand motions. She is reserved and beautiful, a sparkle in her eye behind a demure demeanor. She is always kind and patient with me and I am compassionate and patient with her.

When I walked into my therapy room and closed the door, I briefly forgot about the swirling world of clinic going on all around me. I could close the door to that chaotic and unknown world for me, the role of clinic director, quality control, administrator, accountant, the so many roles that I loved and hated. The roles I felt so inadequate to perform. I could walk into the therapy room and do what I am good at: therapy. Sure, there’s a huge language barrier, cultural barrier, and so many things. But Madamoiselle and I connected in the world of therapy.

I gave her my tennis shoes. They were bright blue and yellow. I think she hated those damn things. I don’t blame her. I’m sure flashy tennis shoes were not the fashion statement Madadmoiselle P had in mind when she was graduating with a degree in cosmetology, around the same time she had a massive stroke from underlying sickle cell anemia. From her perspective, I’m sure these bright tennis shoes did not match her beautiful skirts and coordinated outfits. They emphasized her need for a brace to pick up her toes for her as she did not have much knee, foot, or ankle control. I begged her to wear her tennis shoes and practice walking.

Today I got a new pair of tennis shoes in the mail. I miss that therapy room, that escape from my many responsibilities and entering into my element. I miss my friend, Madamoiselle Pascal. I miss the sun of Haiti. I miss the culture, the beauty. I miss my friends.

Funny what a new pair of tennis shoes brings up.

Madamoiselle P and an incredible occupational therapist and friend, Christina.

Madamoiselle P and an incredible occupational therapist and friend, Christina.