Dad’s Old Shoe Shine Box

Murph likes climbing this thing! Dad gave it to me some years ago with the polishes and tools inside. It is special to me. I thought I’d rest my feet upon to paint my toenails, but I have not done so. I don’t know if I saw him use it when I was little.

It doesn’t surprise me. It’s just like Dad to have a shoeshoine box. In years passed, he dressed sharply when he could. I know he had (& still has) handsome clothing and shoes for church, funerals, and weddings. When not wearing his suits or his work uniform, he otherwise wore jeans or slacks with a button down shirt tucked in, and a belt. To me, Dad has always been handsome in anything. I wish I had seen him shining his shoes on the box years ago.

Lil’ Murph likes Dad’s old shoeshine box.

I found all the items for sale online, and it made me wonder their prices all those years ago. Which shoes did he have then? He probably still has some of them, perhaps at least one pair. Why did he select these items?

The contents

When did he find the time to shop for them, where did he go? He worked so much, 6 days a week for many years, & sometimes all 7. After working overtime, his place of work would call to see if he could come in early to help them. I found myself angry with them as I walked the phone into his room to see him sleeping peacefully. He gave my mother & me a comfortable life with excellent health care.

I wish he hadn’t worked so much. We didn’t see him much. I stayed up late to see him when I could. I often ran to the car on summer nights to greet him when he returned from work. Through the years, he made time to play with me, watch cartoons, buy & set off fire works or drive near downtown to watch theirs. When I was a teenager, he would take my friends & I to eat at a 24 hr. restaurant.

When he worked 6 days a week, we’d travel to Mom’s parent’s house every Sunday for dinner (wich was actually lunch, & what we call dinner, was their supper). 1 – 3 times yearly, we would visit his parents & sister. He lucked into a job (I think when I was a baby) that was a blessing for us. He has helped so many people through the years, that he is not without financial concerns.

I will call him soon. I will ask him if he remembers when and where he bought his shoeshine box. I will also remind him how wonderful he is, in case he forgot since yesterday.

I dont know if any of the clothes he wore years ago still fit him. He was a tall man, standing 6′ 3″, I believe it was. However, my dad, a large hero to myself and many, has collapsed from the weight of his world on his shoulders, so to speak.

He has lost inches of his height, no longer able to remain upright. That does not stop him from caring for his beloved stray & abandoned cats or tending to errands. He has lost no sense of humor or precious attributes!! He tells me things like, “Thank God for you”, and “Thank you for being patient with me”. No Dad, I need you, and “I love you the mostest.”

When I do something for him, he often jokingly says, “Thanks… you know you’re my favorite when my sister’s name here isn’t around (with a chuckle).”

Likewise, when my sis is with him & does something helpful, he jokingly reacts with, “Thanks Babe, you know you’re my favorite when Dawn’s not around.”

When Sis & I are visiting him at the same time, he’ll say these things to us when we are in the same room! He is so animated when he says it! If one of us has maybe just handed him something, for example, he will block the view of his mouth from the the other (who is not his favorite at that minute in time), to tell his little helper, “Thanks! You know you’re my favorite when what’s-her-face isn’t around!” It’s as if he’s whispering it as a secret, but says it aloud so the other can here he it. Then, he chuckles and Sis and I smile each time. My siblings live a little far from him, as do I (but that wasn’t what I planned), so, when Sis visits, she stays a couple nights with him, & I visit one of those days to also see her. That’s usually how it happens.

Dad had 4 children with his first wife. She was not the one for him. He tried to make their marriage a wonderful thing. He had a truly tough time for a long while after the marriage ended (actually it was tough to remain married). He had to still support 4 children for more than a decade. On two occasions, due to clerical errors (computers werent used then), he was escorted from work & placed in jail for not paying child support. Of course, these were mistakes, & he was released as soon as the problems were addressed & he was ‘processed’ out. He always has worked so hard for all of his family. Eventually, after that divorce & moving from the house he had made for them, he met my mom.

When they met, my dad was renting a room from my mom’s great grandmother. This great grandmother (my great great grandmother), whom I never met, had her granddaughter, which was my mother’s mother, bring her two daughters, which were my mom and aunt, to meet the charming older man renting the room. They all sat for dinner together. Dad liked Mom’s personality & humbleness. She was different than her sister.

Long story short, after many years of marriage & multiple miscarriages my saddened Mother had had, her child was finally born. I was born prematurely & taken by cesarean procedure because something was wrong. I weighed little more than 3 lbs. I’m saddened for them that they couldn’t take their new baby home from the hospital right away. I was my dad’s 5th child and my Mom’s first and only. I guess that makes me a first born and a last born. My parents were married more than 50 years when sweet Mom left this realm. Dad was so good to her. He visited her nearly every day when she had to live at a facility for constant medical care & then hospice.

When I have seen a few movies that have touched on the old-time popularity of the service from shoeshine boys, I imagine Dad caring for his shoes in just such a manner. I suspect Mom saw him shining away once or twice.

I remember walking through one of our city’s malls and seeing black chairs to sit on for a shoeshining service, but I can’t recall if I saw anyone sitting there through the short years in which I saw them. They were taken out.

It seems the days of shoeshines, classy hats & ladies’ gloves are nearly gone. It’s simply becoming a bygone era I think of for a fleeting second when I glance at Dad’s shoeshine box.

Dad and I know how wonderful it is that we love each other so. Not every father feels true love for and from his child(ren). Not every child feels true love for and from his or her dad. My mom’s love was this special as well. My parents were the first souls to show or teach to me deep, undying love.

I have been working on this story for days. I have been so busy that I can only type for a few minutes in each stint. Since I began this, I did call Dad, and I want to share what was said.

I asked him when he bought the shoeshine box. He does not recall. I asked him where he got it. He does not recall that either. But, he suspects he purchased it sometime before his accident, when he was attending church regularly. Since this was his response, I have chosen to share something else. Whether or not anyone reads what follows is inconsequential. I want to write it out, I suppose, for multiple, personal reasons.

Dad does not divulge things, but only to very few people, perhaps the ones he loves the mostest. I have however, aquired his permission to write these words. I didn’t talk him into it. I respectfully & simply asked him if I could do this… twice, actually, just to be certain he was comfortable with it.

The accident he is referring to is one hell of an odd experience. Here it is, in a nutshell, almost.:

Years before I was born, Dad had had enough of stuff. He decided to leave state & drive to Virginia Beach. Mom, of course, would be going with him. They knew noone there & had never been there.

To see Mom’s parents first, they visited them at their rural home, where then, there were few homes and much farmland. A storm was approaching, but out of nowhere a tiny devil wind slammed the car door into my dad. He was terribly bruised, but thought nothing of it. But, that isn’t exactly the accident, well, maybe it is. It’s suspect to be the cause of what happened later. After some amount of days. They packed all they could in Dad’s tiny car and drove to Illinois, where his parents lived at that time, to say goodbye.

Hours into the visit, it was night. Dad wasn’t feeling right. He went to the car for fresh air. He stretched himself acrossed the seat and left his feet grounded.

“Get Dad, tell him I’m dying.”

He never came inside. Mom checked on him. When she asked if he was alright, he calmly said, “Get Dad, tell him I’m dying.”

Are you wondering how he knew he was dying? Well, he was, he was bleeding to death on the inside. That, however, he did not know. See, Dad knows what it feels like to die. Elaborating on those experiences are other stories.

Dad was taken to the nearest hospital. The staff kept offering smelling salts to arouse him into consciousness. They desperately needed to know anything he could tell them about what happened to him. He had just been in the rural area there, so was he kicked by a horse, hit with a barn door? Did he ingest something awful?

Anything would be enlightening as to where first to attempt to fix him. But, Dad kept going out. He could not answer them. They did exploratory surgery. One long slice down the abdomen allows them to move aside organs and even lay them out on the table to find the problem.

He has lost so much blood. The hospital has only 2 pints of his bloodtype. They have more shipped from Springfield.

Dad’s heart has stopped. The staff shocks him and shocks him, again and again. It’s approaching 5 minutes. The staff said, “He’s not going to make it.” The surgeon said, “Let’s keep fighting for him!” The staff believed if he lived, he would never be the same. The surgeon injected a long needle filled with something into his heart & Dad immediately regained consciousness.

With his abdomen sliced open, organs not in their places, and who knows how many investigative cuts, the surgeon or someone says, “I bet it’s his spleen!” Yes, his spleen ruptured, by the looks of things it burst in a bad way! They put Dad together. He used to know how many internal & external stitches he received, but only knows now that it was at least 180.

The fight for survival was not over here. Dad remembers all too well suffering something similar to sleep paralysis. He simply could not move or speak. Once he felt drool dripping and could not wipe it. He was in so much pain, but could not speak. He could not move. The pain medicines were keeping him nearly comatose, but was not numbing as they should.

Mom somehow could see his pain. She mentioned to a nurse that he is hurting. The nurse responded by stating how that was impossible because of the drugs. Strange, how a nurse believes in a God she can’t see, but Mom sees Dad’s pain, and the nurse will not believe there is a slight possibility that Mom knows her husband, senses the pain, and is correct.

See, that nearest hospital was a Catholic hospital. The nurses were nuns there. Dad recalls one nurse who was not gentle in cleaning him, and was a bit rough in everything she did in caring for him. Dad also, remembers such a sweet soul there, he said he could feel her kind energy.

He knew when it was her in the room with him, though he could not see, even if he believed he opened his eyes. She would hold him to give him sips of water when it was possible. She knew his throat was dry, regardless the fact he was given fluids to prevent dehydration via a needle.

She had a priest read to Dad his ‘last rites‘. Dad is not Catholic. He does remember the words the priest spoke to him. Dad was not bothered by this. The priest spoke wonderful and kind words to him with a well-intended heart. The little nun also, only meant well for Dad and his soul, for she thought Dad was not going to survive the night. Dad was touched by these two people, and their concern for his life and afterlife.

Dad survived and retained all mental & physical abilities despite no heartbeat or breathing for the time span that traspired. He certainly lossed no sense of humor either. Occasionally, he would toss his shirt on while standing in the hall. When I was much younger, some of my friends that spotted him asked how he got the long scar on his belly. Dad would say, “That’s from when I had Dawn, the doctors had to take her out of my belly!” He said it so seriously & with a straight face, that a few girls believed him – some for the first second, some, sadly longer – until Dad finally laughed!! Not all my friends were very bright or logical thinkers, okay. : )

I just realized, my mom was read ‘last rites’ as well. Mom is not Catholic. I am seeing it to be strange that both parents were read them and are not of that particular way of belief! But, that is a different story.

Dad suffers when he thinks of any animal being lonely, mistreated or in pain. He is in awe about all animals and their abilities and capabilities. However, he still doesn’t quite understand my love for lizards, although, he is happy they bring so much joy to my life. I often show him the cutest photos & videos of Murph… alas, I am still waiting for Dad to think he’s cute!

I placed Murph on Dad’s shoulder, which actually & usually wins people over, and they, from then on ask to hold Murph, even those who previously thought they didn’t like lizards. Murph is changing people everywhere!! I’ll let you know when he wins Dad’s heart!

I have read that a splenectomy may result in problems with the immune system, but, believe me, Dad’s immune system is superior to others! My entire life, I have seen people near him with a terrible flu or some ailment of sickness, & the man has had nothing more than mild cold maybe a few times! I dont know if other parts of the body take over the job of what a spleen normally does, but does it better, I simply don’t know.

Please visit our homepage @ for stories, tips on caring for lizards found within the menu, the ability to help us with a donation, and of course, more Murph!

“Give me Lizardry or give me Death!” – Dawn Renée


  1. A beautiful story, Dawn. ❤

    Yes, shoe shine boxes are definitely of a different era.

    You use to see shoe shine boys in movies of the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and early ’60s.

    Post 1970 movies not so much.

    People bought new shoes instead of shining their old ones.

    Shoe repair shops are no longer seen much either.


  2. Thank you, Christopher. I didn’t fully expect anyone to read it all, and that’s okay. Indeed, post 1970’s movies, not much was shown of the old art, if you will. Shoe repair shops are beginning to become lost in antiquity as well. There is, however, a fabulous shoe cobbler shop downtown in the city where I grew up. I assume they will shine shoes, their repair work & color matching for scuffs is phenomenal.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dawn, my sweet, wonderful daughter-in-law, thank you for sharing these things about your Dad! I’ve always admired him but now even more!


  4. Thank you, Jas. You always say something so kind, and that is very appreciated here. We hope for many happy memories for you and your family.


  5. Such beautiful things of you to type here! Dad certainly leaves a unique impression on people with the hearts that see what a caring human he is to the world. Recently, the man who has done his taxes for years said he admired Dad’s love for animals & enjoyed hearing his stories. Dad’s mechanic called here just to see how he was doing. I will certainly tell him what you have said, and he will find it so nice.


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