Flash & Filigree

SOCKS, SHOESTRINGS, AND THE AGING PROCESS

The humble sock attracted little attention for the first seventy-five of my seventy-six years.  I found a pair and put them on, and that was all one did with socks.  If they lingered for a few days and got smelly, somebody washed them.  And that would be it for socks.

That socks might carry a message from the Boatman never occurred to me until late in my seventy-fifth year, when I selected a pair of socks one morning and found that I was utterly unable to put them on.

Somehow they receded–near my feet, but out of reach.  Now, I am many things, but limber I have never been—stretch as I might, I just could not bend enough so as to pull a sock onto my foot—either foot, any sock.  Once I nearly succeeded, only to have the fabric of the sock snag on a toenail.  And all the while, as I struggled with this recalcitrant garment, now often out of sight somewhere below my legs, time—ridiculous amounts of it—was passing, as I vainly reached and reached.

If I were a resident of the African veldt, or perhaps one of the swift Tarahumara inhabiting country just south of us in northern Mexico, socks would not be a part of my consciousness, let alone a daily and persistent challenge to my morning ritual.

I have not made my peace with socks.  Day after day, they humble me and emphasize that mortality always wins.  The failure to perform these small, habitual tasks to some might signify the beginning of the end.

But a year has passed, and many ordinary tasks and once useful objects have come to trip me up.  Shoestrings are almost as vexing as socks.  They tangle themselves in my cuffs, or else creep into the shoe itself.

Cars never made difficulties for me, but now, as I try to get in one or out of one, they do.  Finding the snap that secures the seatbelt can provoke ever mounting frustration.

The pattern is obvious:  the older you get, the less you can do easily.  There are exceptions, of course, but even freaks of nature are brought down by nature anyway, in the end.

The socks and shoelaces are harbingers, and the Boatman inches forward, closer and closer to one’s elbow.

 

–Larry McMurtry

6 comments

  1. Byron Van Buren

    Socks. Well Neruda wrote a wonderful poem about socks: how much he loved a particular handmade pair, a benediction as it were to socks.
    But your issue is socks and mortality. As one ages one’s physical ability diminishes: the three legged Sphinx ain’t a mystery anymore. Like a baby, old people can’t touch their toes. And like a baby Time for the aged is like a child’s: sleep, awake, sleep, awake. Time blinks.
    Perhaps the joy of being old is not having to wear socks. So you can’t put them on. Go with the flow. Screw ’em. Wear your shoes without them. What is that poem about age and wearing purple? Wear purple. Buy a panama hat. Enjoy the moment, the limitations. In the great novel Duane Depressed, Duane walked everywhere without a car. Who needs socks?

  2. Since everything makes me think of something, after reading this, I was reminded of something my grandfather once told me about herding turkeys. It seems that the little town of Lebanon, Missouri was at one time, the major railhead for the shipment of turkeys to market.

    This was in the days of buggies and farm wagons, so even large trucks loaded with stacks of wooden pens were still a thing of the future. In those days, the farmers herded the turkeys to town and even down the main street to the railroad loading docks.

    Somewhere in my grandfather’s old photographs, I have seen a picture of this actually happening; the whole town flooded with turkeys.

    What does this have to do with socks? You may well ask. The reason I thought of this is because my grandfather told me that in order to keep the turkeys from having ruined feet, they would first run them through liquid tar. Giving them a retread, so to speak, before driving them to town.

    And this reminded me of once reading that the ancient South American tribes would do the same thing with liquid latex making themselves “socks” of crude rubber.

    Now maybe this is worth consideration in your case. But better yet, I would recommend a tall pair of UGG boots. They are ambiguous enough looking (if your trousers are long enough) and provide a cozy cradle of softness for your foot. The tall sides make sliding them on an easy task and a toe behind the heel removes them just like any boot.

  3. Hey there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Michael Freitas

    Ms. Harris, might not have read about your problem with birds. The thought of herding turkeys must make you cringe. The other day I was in a used book store. I found, “Moving On.” It was a 1st edtion, but had be well read and it was old, but the dust jacket was in plastic and it was only $7.50. I didn’t need it. I have a nice large paperback and the small paperback that I had read 35 plus years ago, it probably was the one that made me a fan. I didn’t need it, I was about to put it back on the shelf, when I looked at the back flap and saw your picture. It alone was worth the price.of admission. There used to be wrestling in Southern California during the ’50’s and ’60’s, and from there the term, ‘pencil neck geek’, arose, I think. In a dictionary they wouldn’t need a word definition, if they just put your picture there. Anyway that guy probably had no trouble with his socks. I did buy the book. I might read the damn thing again, but its a lot of pages.

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