Knew it was coming and thought I was prepared. I stewed about it, wrote about it, got my head screwed on straight about it and still it tripped (a pun perhaps) me up. This all started about 15 years ago.
I was tending my own little flock as Parish Visitor. Seeing to the needs of the older population from our church who no longer attended Sunday services. A young woman from the congregation was suddenly added to my list (she didn’t fit the mold). Not quite young enough to be one of my kids but pritnear. She was single, successful and just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her mom had died in her early 40’s from cancer and Rosemary kinda felt like ‘it’ was coming.
She was determined to fight cancer like the warrior she was, hard and head on. Initially the cancer was found in one breast, but Rosemary decided on a double mastectomy plus had her ovaries removed as a preventative measure. After surgery and a few chemo treatments she was deemed cancer free. She went back to work and by all outward appearances was doing great. This grace period lasted about a year, then she started coughing. The cancer was back (everywhere, lungs, brain, leg) with renewed interest and a vengeance.
For the first time in her adult life Rosemary no longer ‘dressed for success.’ Her business suits found their way to the back of the closet. She needed to be comfortable and warm (common complaint about chemo is feeling cold). She was enamored with my sandals (not at all dressy, kinda clunky actually) which didn’t surprise me. I lusted/coveted them for a spell prior to buying because they were expensive, but exactly what I was looking for. Really a pair of shoes, sporting well placed holes (so they looked great with shorts or capris) with covered toes and a comfortable foot bed. There were many styles/colors to choose from so my first pair was my favorite color-navy.
I was high on the list of Rosemary’s support team during her second-go-round with cancer. Her lengthy chemotherapy treatments were more potent this time which kept her nauseous fighting the side effects. But there were several days in between where she felt like a ‘normal early 40’ish woman’ and wanted to do what other young women did-go shopping! So we headed to the mall. She bought some expensive makeup and then we went shoe shopping. The Keen sandals she chose was similar to mine but black. Afterwards we stopped at her favorite Mexican restaurant. She was freezing (from the mall) and asked if we could sit outside that day to eat. It was hot, humid and in the upper 80’s.
Rosemary loved her Keen’s. A few days later when I picked her up for chemo she gushed she’d ordered 3 more pair online. She wanted so badly to normalize her life instead of cancer dictating what she could and couldn’t do. She had many good days but the cancer was spreading and the side effects were taking a toll, physically and emotionally.
She’d lost a lot of weight and was conspicuously frail. She fell a couple times, tripping on a throw rug. Her oncologist told us to remove the rugs because she’d developed neuropathy in her feet (tingling/pain and numbness). He ordered insert braces for her shoes to help with her balance, but the braces didn’t fit inside her Keens. One day when I brought over lunch she set her black Keens next to me. “Can’t wear them anymore. I want you to have them-no arguments.”
Rosemary passed away several months later on September 21, 2010. I’ve been wearing her Keens since 2009 and think of her every time I slip them on. They can hardly be called black anymore, now sort of a dingy, faded brown/grey. The waterproof material separated from the covered toe bed so Hubs re-glued them. The sole of her left sandal cracked all the way across near the ball of my foot, so Hubs re-glued and clamped it, but the crack was back (bigger) a month later.
It’s not that Rosemary’s Keen’s are the only thing I’ve got to remember her by. I use her Fiesta Ware blue sugar bowl everyday. I drank coffee from one of her mugs daily until it cracked in a sink of soapy water. After scouring the Internet I found the guy named who crafted her coffee mug and wanted to buy another, but it’s not from a pattern he uses anymore.
My navy Keen’s, 2 years older than Rosemary’s pair are still perfect. Guess I should have thought of that before wearing Rosemary’s 6 months a year for a decade. I searched the Keen site for the exact same sandal but there’s been some minor changes. (Well it has been 14 years). I ordered a pair but they’re not the same. Rosemary’s tattered sandals continue to fall apart. The loose cracked sole now has its own slapping sound whenever I take a step, plus it’s missing a huge chunk I found on the rug this week. Hubs walked through the room, shaking his head as I was trying to figure out how to preserve what’s left of her/my favorite Keens. “Have you ever thought having Rosemary’s Keen’s bronzed?”…