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Across County Lines: Life and socks

By Mark Constance

I sorted socks .

As I arrived in Waterloo, Illinois, I wasn’t sure. Of anything.

There were no photos on this trip. No wine. No sunburn. No loud and out of control euchre games. Those times have passed.

I sat in a wheelchair my sister Kelley refused to use. It mostly quiet. Windows open. Sunny and 70. Bird sounds fill the air, along with the faint growl of a lawnmower in the distance. Kids played in the yard across the way.

It was peaceful.

Hospice was here to make her comfortable. She wanted to pass at home and my brother in law, Terry, would make that happen.

The strange thing about people passing is that our memories remain. Swimming after midnight to a raft the middle of Buck Lake, with a full moon reflecting off the water; Just a week after seeing “Jaws” for the first time.

Riding her brand-new bike across the streets and sidewalks in Detroit without looking, until it abruptly ended when I was hit broadside by a car, messing up my body and her new bike at the same time. Then having my grandfather ride with us to the emergency room in the back of a police car.

And dozens more stories, many to be shared by everyone in our family. Others that leave with her. Each remembered by the people left behind.

But about the socks.

Kelley woke up in the middle of the night and asked my brother-in-law, Terry, to help her put on a pair of socks.

For many of us socks are a “laundry afterthought.” Throw them in a basket and sort later. Sometimes way later. Terry had to search in the dark that night because matching socks hasn’t exactly been at the top of anyone’s list. And he didn’t find a match.

I walked into the living room the following morning and he was sitting on the sofa with a basket in front of him. I poured a coffee. The we sat and sorted socks in silence.

Although the memories of your brothers and sisters are yours alone, we often forget that our siblings have families of their own. Husbands. Wives. Sons and daughters. Grandchildren. Friends. And their own memories that don’t necessarily include us.

That was reflected in the socks: Petite footies; Wool hunting socks; Baseball stirrups; Knee highs and tiny socks for the smallest grandchild.

When the sorting was finished, there were almost two baskets of complete pairs of socks. And just as many singles, which seemed to represent half of the shared memories.

When we introduce people into our heart as adults, those relationships are rarely the same as they are with our siblings. They are our first friends. Our first enemies. A part of our lives that have always been there. That we always expect to be there.

But life is fragile. Arriving in a flurry and leaving in a whisper.

What we build between the start and finish can be amazing. Much like the basket of socks. You start out with one or two, then it grows to dozens of pairs, where everything matches.

But over time, half the pair disappears without reason, leaving an open space. And a new sock basket with complete pairs is started by those of us left behind.

I sorted socks.

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