Jewish World Review May 31, 2000/ 26 Iyar, 5760
The war only time wins
THIS IS THE STORY of a pair of shoes and the feet that walked in them. I've been looking at these shoes sitting on my desk - cracked and split where the toes break in a foot's stride - for several months. I didn't know the man who once wore them, though I know a little about him.
His name was Capt. Andy Androsko. I met him posthumously through an artist-friend, Stephen Chesley, who lived next door to Androsko until the old man died. It was Chesley who brought me the shoes.
They're brown lace-ups, size seven and a half EEE, well-worn, beat up really, and fully air-conditioned. Who would keep a pair of shoes like that? Who would wear them?
Androsko wore them every day. Each morning around eight o'clock, Chesley heard Capt. Androsko's shoes grate against the gravelly surface of his asphalt driveway as the old man shuffled down toward his car and breakfast at The Lizard's Thicket. Chesley always greeted him through the window:
"How ya' doin'?"
"Oh any way I can."
Androsko always wore a windbreaker and an olive green cap. He also wore glasses and a smile. What did he have to complain about, anyway? So he had cancer. So he had arthritis and couldn't see well. He had a pair of serviceable shoes, a car that ran, and a warm breakfast at the end of a short drive. And he was alive, unlike so many of his buddies of the "Frozen Chosin."
Unlike so many who during the unforgettable, yet ironically forgotten, historical instant during the Korean War when thousands of American soldiers fought a fierce, two-week battle against the Chinese in below-30-degree temperatures at the Chosin Reservoir.
Somehow Androsko survived that particular moment when hell did freeze over and made his way home to marry twice (his first wife died), raise two daughters and conduct a quiet life no one much noticed. Then one day, with his second wife gone and his daughters moved away, cancer called his name.
Chesley remembers the day three years ago when an ambulance pulled up. "You know, the big white cloud. It looked like it should be in a rescue movie with a lot of noise, but it rolled by silently. Very quietly they rolled him out. I saw him on the stretcher, with the sheets pulled up tight. He still had on his glasses. That's the last time I saw him."
A few days later, the daughters arrived to clean out Androsko's house. The attic was stuffed with the artifacts of a life past. Most of it ended up in a pile by the street - cards and letters, photographs, and a pair of old brown lace-ups, cracked and split where the toes break in a foot's stride.
Toward dusk, Chesley - a man who misses none of life's details - walked out to the trash pile and pulled a few items. "I'm probably the only person who knew about those shoes," he says. "I couldn't just leave them there to be carted off to a dump."
And so Capt. Androsko's shoes came to rest on my desk where, I suppose, they'll remain until someone sets my life's debris on a street-side pile. To Chesley, the shoes weren't just the remains of an old friend, but a metaphor for all our lives, our struggles for nobility in the face of death, especially for veterans who have already had a peek behind the curtain.
"I see those shoes as a symbol for all veterans of all wars and the families affected by them. They're quietly forgotten, and then it starts all over again. Some new war with a new face and a new Andy Androsko shuffling down his driveway.
"Nobody wins, you know. Only time
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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