The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”
“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”
So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”
- Genesis 18:1-6
You may not believe this, but I wrote the following story almost four years ago, before I started the blog site. It simply did not feel like the right time to use it when I started the site, so I held onto it. Combine the story below with the photo above and you have a yin and yang of my retired life. My how things have changed.
What does the photo say about retirement? During my working life, my closet was filled with pants and neatly ironed shirts. I would usually take the next shirt and then match it with one of my 100+ neck ties, then get an appropriate pair of pants. In retirement and in cold weather, I wear “Al shirts.” “Al shirt” was the name we used for flannel shirts of some plaid pattern in the 90s. Al Borland, played by Richard Karn, was Tim Taylor’s (Tim Allen) sidekick on Tool Time, as a fictional television show on the 1991-1999 sitcom, Home Improvement. The show focus on the Taylor family, but Al was often in the first season and became a regular after the first season. He always wore flannel shirts, and he was always the more sensible person on the Tool Time show within the show.
The “Al shirts” give me that extra layer that a dress shirt does not really provide in cold weather. I took the photo on a day when I had just worn one Al shirt and had washed the other four shirts, while my wife was at the dialysis center. I was lamenting having not had a sockless day in the past five days. Too many doctor appointments. (About a month before yesterday’s story of two really hard doctor visit and test days recently)
There is a correction to the story below. Four years ago, I let my wife drive herself, allowing me sockless days on occasion, but when she admitted that she forgot how to get home one day, finally making it home, I decided that I would only let her drive when she followed me in the other car, or I was in the car with her. We have had the new car for three and a half months and she has never sat in the driver’s seat. In reading this old story, from only four years ago, that little difference touched my heart.
As for the Scripture above, Abraham had water brought so that his visitors could have their feet washed. In those days when you walked, wearing sandals, over dusty roads, your feet became sore, tired, and dirty. It was customary to have a servant wash the feet of guests. Jesus washing the feet of His disciples was a tremendous departure from custom, as the master washed the feet instead. In the story below, my Dad washed the feet of three children with gasoline. You will find out why.
As for the Yin and Yang, almost all days are either sockless or they are “Al Shirt” days (until the weather warms up). The exception for now is Sunday with a dress shirt and tie. Every day is a writing day, but some days, the “Al shirt” days, are interrupted by driving my wife somewhere or picking her up. For the “Al shirt” days, the socks stay on until we are home for good that afternoon or evening. And even with a water pill, I rejoice when the socks come off.
My original story about “sockless days.”
When I was young, I would run around barefoot all day. I never had a thought about running down a gravel road. My feet were tough. Of course, I wore shoes when I went to school, church, and scout meetings.
There was one time when I wished that I had shoes to wear. We lived for a year in southern Mississippi. For a week, my cousins from Florida were visiting. My aunt was driving an old Chrysler made in the thirties. The car was magical, with the tiny oval windows in the back. My mother suggested that we go to a new state park in the county. We had never been there, but she heard that there was a lake with a swimming area. We all went down to the lake for a picnic lunch but after the meal, my mother left to go back to work. We were given instructions not to enter the water for at least an hour. When my mother left, all of our shoes were in her car.
When we were finished swimming, my aunt tried to crank the old car, but it wouldn’t crank. She had flooded the engine, but she didn’t know that at the time. The car was about thirty years old. She walked to the ranger station at the park and asked to use the telephone. This was decades before cellphones. The ranger was polite, but he basically asked her if she saw any wires. Suddenly we realized how far into the backwoods we had traveled. There was no electricity or telephones. The road to the park was freshly paved, but otherwise, we were beyond the reaches of civilization.
My aunt felt that she would have to stay by the car with her youngest son. Her daughter (11 or 12), her son (10) and I (10 or 11, near my birthday) would have to walk to the nearest house that had a phone. As we walked down the paved road, the road became hot beneath our feet. We didn’t worry about it. It didn’t really hurt, at first, but the asphalt was starting to melt. About a mile down the road, we ran up a hill to the nearest farmhouse, the first that we saw. The lady said that she didn’t have any electricity. She told us to look for electrical lines and follow them. About two miles further, we found a house with electricity, but without a telephone. By this time, we were walking in the ditch when we could. The road was too hot. At times, the ditch was not passable and we had to get back on the road. Some of the asphalt was liquid by this point. Asphalt is generally a group of organic compounds used to mix with rock for surfacing roads. Asphalt may start melting around 95-100 degrees F. It was well over 100. That’s why the picnic and swimming were so inviting.
After about seven miles total, we noticed a house with two wires going to the house. This had to be a house with both electricity and a telephone. As we stepped onto the rough wooden front porch, we all screamed in pain. The porch was made of rough wooden planks and was almost smooth. Our feet were coated with asphalt. Since our feet were cooler than the road, the asphalt had become a sticky solid on our feet. Some of the pea gravel that was used in the asphalt paving had come loose and attached to our feet. We hadn’t noticed while walking in the red clay ditch, but we did notice when stepping onto a hard smooth surface. While the eldest of our crew knocked on the door, my other cousin and I picked the rocks off our feet, causing more pain.
I was elected to call my Dad. By this time, it was near time for him to get off work. He drove out to the farmhouse and picked us up. We had to sit next to the road, since he had no idea from which house we had placed the call. My dad easily got my aunt’s car cranked when we got back to the park.
Once we got home, we were not allowed back in the house until our feet were cleaned. My father used gasoline to dissolve the asphalt from our feet. The bottoms of our feet were covered in blisters from burns and cuts from the rocks cutting into the skin. This greatly curtailed the running and playing portion of my cousins’ visit. We played board games instead and put jigsaw puzzles together. We didn’t go anywhere without fluffy house slippers or tennis shoes. Within two weeks, I was back running barefoot.
After years of wearing shoes, it became harder to walk on gravel roads. As an adult, I ran barefoot over the gravel road of my youth and immediately turned around, looking for shoes. Even the smooth river-washed stones hurt soft adult feet. My siblings would laugh and tease me for having soft feet. They teased but I never saw them go barefoot.
For the past fifteen years, I have had swelling in my legs and feet. Wearing socks will make my feet hurt after a full day on my feet. The first thing that I want to do when I get home is get my socks off.
Now that I am retired, I don’t wear socks or shoes when I have nowhere to go. I’ll even step into a few inches of snow to take the trash can from the street to the back porch without getting shoes on. I don’t want anything to spoil my sockless days. Barefoot is okay, but a day without socks is a day that the socks don’t hurt my feet, feeling like they cut off the circulation, but really preventing further swelling, getting tighter and tighter as the day progresses. I grew up in the south. We always wore socks with shoes. I would never consider not doing that.
To have more sockless days, I consider the errands that my wife has for us to do. If they do not require my attendance, I might just opt for one more sockless day that week. She doesn’t mind. Having me driving her around is nice, but it means that she cuts her shopping short. Without me there, she can browse. She can take things from the rack, walk with them, second guess herself, and put them back on the rack. She has time to make wise decisions. With me around, I won’t say anything, but she will feel rushed.
The extra sockless days have benefits for both of us. May there be more sockless days in the future.
And in an overall conclusion, may we praise God in both the sockless days and the “Al shirt” days of our lives.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.