These shoes are loud. When I wear them in the office building where I work, I am noisy. The bottoms are hard and stitched and sturdy. My other shoes seem flimsy by comparison. 

And these aren’t my shoes. 

Well… They are now. I don’t remember the moment exactly, but sometime in the aftermath of my grandfather’s funeral more than a dozen years ago, my grandmother asked if I’d like to take these shoes from his closet. 

This was a big deal. Some men are known for their grit or their truck or their stoicism. My grandpa was known for his style. Apart from the breakfast table, I literally never saw him in anything less than a button-down and pressed dress pants. Usually there was a jacket or tie involved. By the time I encountered Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart in films as a child, they reminded me of Grandpa – not the other way around. He had a timeless class and it wasn’t just his clothes. It was his smile, his conversation, his integrity and history and devotion. He left big shoes to fill. 

And Grandma thought I was up to the task. Literally.

On the inside of these Florsheim shoes, against the right wall, there is a series of numbers and letters printed. This is the mythology of Florsheim and a lesson in branding. Furious Google-searching has revealed there is a method in this madness. Each series of numbers signifies a different detail, down to a duo of letters that signify the month and last digit of the year the shoes were created. Taking this incomplete info and cross referencing with the logo style and “made in” insignia, the best I can tell, these shoes were created in 1996. They are twenty-one years old. My normal pair of dress shoes is six months old and I doubt will last another six. The insides are wearing, the soles are squeaky already. 

These Florsheim shoes can legally drink.

Grandpa would have been 72 when he laced these up for the first time. He probably delivered a sermon while wearing them. I am sure he visited a church member in a nursing home with them on. And he likely wore them while he took his visiting 13-year-old grandson to the Food Lion to buy hot dog buns and mustard.   

He always wanted me to go to the grocery store with him. Never my sister or brother – just me. We’d arrive for a stay at Grandma and Grandpa’s house and within thirty minutes he’d devise a reason to run an errand and invite me to come along. I always said yes. 

I’d like to say we had deep talks or traded funny stories. But the main thing I remember is just being – just being there with Grandpa. No distractions. Just road noise and breathing and comfort. I was with Grandpa and he was the most dapper guy I’d ever met. What could possibly go wrong?

Yes. I do wear his shoes some days, but I will admit that they don’t quite fit right. Not yet. I still have some growing to do.  

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