Old boots. I have a pair of old cowboy boots. About seven years old. I’ve done a lot in those boots. Fished, camped, hiked, landscaped, and many other activities that are too numerous to mention here. Several years ago I had them repaired by a modern-era cobbler in a strip mall. It took a bit of convincing, after he inspected them and laughed and said it would be a waste of money. This Jedi of footwear didn’t understand the deeper meaning of my need as I stood there with two worn, beaten, frazzled boots, one in each hand, an expression of grave concern etched on my face. But he took my money and patched the holes and all was well with the world.
The leather is soft and comforting. To my feet, they are old friends. Reliable and trustworthy. If they fell apart tomorrow, in mid-stride, the leather, stitching and sole separating with finality, they will not have failed me. We’ve travelled many a road together.
I also have an old hat. A straw cowboy hat. The crown and brim are stained with sweat where it sits on my head. Sweat from labors of love and adversity and excitement and worry. It’s comfortable. Reliable in keeping the sun from my eyes. Trustworthy in shading my head. It’s as dear to me as my boots. It is to me what my grandfather’s own sweat-stained fedora was to him, and he wore that thing as long as I can remember. He has it on in every picture that lines the bottom of that ratty gray shoebox on the closet shelf. It’s a reminder of who he was. Of who I am. Maybe one day I will smile up at my children from an old photograph in a shoebox, my stained, worn cowboy hat firmly on my head, boots dusty and battered on my feet.
So, I will treasure my old boots and my old hat until their dying day.
My wife cringes when she looks at my boots and hat. She wrinkles her nose, but stays silent. Maybe because she knows how I feel about them. Because she knows in her heart that I’ve committed to her in much the same way, but with a far deeper love than that bestowed upon material things.
Relationships are a lot like old boots and hats. Or an old photograph of times and people past. Whether an old friend, or relative, or spouse, or a family pet, we commit to them. We enjoy their comfort. Their reliability. Their honest simplicity. The familiarity they bring to us when nothing else makes sense. The feeling of being accepted, though we are old and tattered and worn and stained. Of being loved and returning that love.
I would give up these old boots and hat if my wife ever insisted. But she won’t. She understands that I will be committed to her far beyond that of old boots and hats. That I will treasure and love her until the very last piece of leather, stitch, and straw has returned to the earth, amen.