Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Humble Tasks: Footwashing

Dad gets a pedicure from me!
Photo by Karl Stephan
If Dad could see his feet, he would wash them, and if he could bend close enough to his toes, I am sure he would trim his nails. However, he has macular degeneration and a little arthritis, so getting down to his feet is not practical. After his feet had gone untended for a while they began to hurt. Dad seldom complains, so when he did gripe about his feet, I took a look and wasn't happy with how they looked, or how they smelled.

As I considered what to do about those feet, this Bible verse came to mind:

"Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty (snobbish, high-minded, exclusive), but readily adjust yourself to [people, things] and give yourselves to humble tasks." Romans 12:16 

In most cases, doing a pedicure might be a pleasant task. But Dad has always had a challenge with his toenails. These are thick nails, ingrown in places, and infected by fungus. Regular clippers won't begin to do the job. Imagination and lots of patience and empathy would be required. This would be a Humble Task for me to do.

I made up a foot soak in a large tub and got Dad to slip his feet into:
  • half a gallon of warm water
  • two capfuls of Listerine mouthwash
  • one capful of white vinegar 
He soaked his feet about 15 minutes and then I sat on a stool while he rested one foot at a time in my towel-draped lap. I must say that the Listerine and vinegar took care of foot and toe odors! A gentle rub with a washrag got rid of dry and flaky skin around the heel and sides of each foot. I gently used a curett nail cleaner around each nail and regular clippers where they would fit. Where nail were too thick, I used a PediPaws grinder to reduce the volume. I know - that product is meant for dogs, but it works just fine for this job too! Once the very thick nails were closer to normal thickness, it was easy to clip them. I passed up the ingrown nails, intending to find a podiatrist to work on those. 

I won't be noble about this and say that I felt saintly or selfless while doing this task. But it did get me to thinking about Dad's feet.

These feet have been many miles. They started out in a small town in Oklahoma, before the Great Depression. They took a small boy to school in Ft. Worth, Texas once the family moved south to find work. When that boy became a teenager, his feet took him all around the neighborhood as he threw newspapers, played touch football, baseball, and walked down to the icehouse and back for his mother. In 1943, these feet got on board a ship that sailed into the South Pacific with a new unit of Seabees who held a supply and refueling base during World War II. Back in Texas after the war, he walked many miles with road survey crews and while doing construction. After going to college and getting married, those feet faithfully went to work each day. When his kids were born, he walked with them, taught them to ride bikes and drive cars. In retirement, Dad and Mom traveled all over the country, walking around seeing the sights in every state. And these feet helped carry her ashes home after she passed away eight years ago. Dad has since traveled with us on vacation, strolled the beach on the Texas coast, walked around my neighborhood with the dogs, and pushed a cart around our local grocery store. I suppose these feet have walked around the world, so to speak.

Once the pedicure was over and I let Dad put some clean socks on, he thanked me. He slipped on his shoes and took the dogs out to walk in the yard while I cleaned up my tools and the foot bath tub. Since then, I have washed Dad's feet many times and trimmed his toenails. Perhaps he did the same for me when I was a baby. I'm just glad to be able to do something, no matter how humble, to keep him going!

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