On weeknights she lay in bed, listening for the sound of her father’s feet on the front porch. Sometimes she would fall asleep before hearing anything other than the crickets outside her window. Other nights she would hear the porch creak and the screen door thwack before falling into a dreamless sleep.
In high school, she stopped listening for the sound of her father’s feet. School was hard and she couldn’t risk falling asleep at her desk. She taught herself to go to sleep at a decent hour each night despite the worry in her gut.
In the mornings, she looked for his shoes beside the front door. If the shoes weren’t there, her father’s feet were most likely settled on the bottom rung of a bar stool, his forehead on the bar. On those days, she went to the bar to retrieve him. She always entered sheepishly and kept her eyes focused on her father’s feet to avoid the look of pity from the bartender.
On the walk home, her father’s feet dragged and stumbled as she pulled him along. Once in the house she put her father’s feet on the ottoman and made sure he had a blanket beside him in case he got cold. Then she raced to school and arrived only ten minutes after first bell.
On the day she graduated, she peeked her head into his bedroom and saw her father’s feet sticking out from underneath his blanket. There would be no reviving him.
On the day she got married, her father’s feet left a muddy stain on the train of her wedding dress. The photographer had a kind heart and did her best to cover the mark in most of the photos.
On the day he died, her father’s feet were cold by the time she reached the hospital. The room was filled with loved ones to whom he had wished farewell, but he hadn’t held on to say goodbye to her.
On that same day, she thought about all the steps her father’s feet had taken and the path they had created. She could now make her own path, with her own feet. The feet that had always been stronger than her father’s feet.