In her 88-year life my maternal grandmother
experienced her share of hardship--Nazi
Occupation, war, Soviet persecution, prison,
emigration, and a crippling car crash. Her
general demeanor shifted between stoic and
suspicious but she would sparkle and beam when
she spoke of her father.
He was a prominent civil engineer in Prague at
the start of the 20th century who directed a
staff of 150 as they laid out a modern expansion
of the ancient city, yet he bore his heavy
responsibilities with a light touch.
His wife surprised him one day with a new pair
of shoes. They were every bit as elegant as his
usual formal footwear but the heels and soles
were made of a new synthetic material which was
lightweight and pliant.
| He was grateful for the gift and wore
them to work the very next day.
Among Czechs it is the custom to remove
one's shoes at the door, but this time when he
came home for lunch he was so exasperated he
could barely untie the laces.
All morning as he made his rounds in his new
silent shoes he'd inadvertently caught his
subordinates goofing off--papers were hurriedly
shuffled, cigarettes hastily extinguished, desk
drawers quickly shut.
When he finally got them off he hurled the new
shoes away and said simply, "I don't want to
catch them at their business!"
He put on his old heavy shoes with the noisy
hardwood soles and clacked around the room in
tight circles, satisfied that they'd always hear