God lives at Nails2K salon. I’m telling you. It never fails when I go to take some time for myself, I encounter God in this place.
Yesterday when I went, I was a little disappointed, because the person who was available to give my pedicure was not my favorite. She is new, and less experienced. Last time, she filed my toenails in a shape I don’t really like. (I’m owning my perfectionistic personality here! How stupid is it that I care what shape my toenails are?! But this matters to me. I notice them every time I look down.)
But all the other pedicurists were occupied, and I didn’t have time to wait, so I sighed, settled into the big comfy chair and relished the warmth, as I put my feet in the swirling water. I was determined to rest—which means not answering any texts for the next hour. I closed my eyes and put my head back and tuned in to the music playing through the huge TV. My feet were tired.
About half way through the heavenly, hot stone, massage bliss, I heard a bit of a ruckus. Customers had come in and were being seated right next to me. I opened my eyes to see the cutest elderly couple ever. The man was tall and slender, dressed in slacks and a button down white shirt, with a sweater (in July, in Oklahoma). He walked with a cane now, but I could see the strong, stately gentleman that he once was.
His wife was loud and bossy. She told him to sit next to me, and then announced to one of pedicurists that she wanted her toes to be a “peachy color,” as she sat down in the next chair over. The Vietnamese young man furrowed his brow and said, “Peachy?” She loudly reiterated, “Peachy. You know. Like peach. Peachy.” He hurried off to the shelf of a thousand colors and returned with three bottles of “pinky” nail polish. Not peach at all, by my estimation. She looked at them, and then said, “That one there will do.”
The old man struggled awkwardly into the oversized chair next to me, and using both his hands, he lifted each one of his legs until his feet landed wobbly on the foot rest above the already swirling water below. He was still wearing his shoes.
The young man with the “pinky” nail polish quickly rushed to his aide. He untied the laces from the man’s perfectly polished dress shoes, slipped them off his feet and then gently peeled his tight, black, dress socks down and off his toes. He smiled nicely, as he placed the old man’s feet in the water. “It okay? Too hot?” The man said simply, “It’s fine.”
I tried not to stare, as the young people, adjusted seat backs and turned on massage features for the elderly couple. I was supposed to be here to relax and enjoy this foot massage, so I closed my eyes again to breathe deeply . . . Only I couldn’t.
I heard a sweet, Vietnamese voice say, “Everything okay, Daddy?” I opened my eyes to see the young woman seated at the old man’s feet. He said, “I’m sorry about my toe nails. It’s been a long time. They’re like horse’s hooves.” With kind eyes, she said, “It no problem, Daddy. I take care of you.” He told her, “I’m ninety years old. These feet have taken a lot of steps.” She smiled and quietly got to work. Cutting and filing. Then I watched as she lathered on the lotion and gently massaged those tired feet. I imagined the places he’d been, the story of his life.
My friend, Tony, the pedicurist who serenaded me on my first visit to this salon, worked on the woman’s feet. He chatted and teased her, making her feel pampered and pretty. I heard him tell her he liked the color of her hair. Her feisty, red hair was teased and hairspray-stiff, the way my grandmother wore hers. I imagined this lady is strong. She knows what she likes and how things should be. I admired her.
There were four of us seated receiving the treatment. A lady to my left, whom I had ignored when I came in. (I was here to relax, to take some “me time.”) Me. And then the old man and woman to my right. Four beautiful, Vietnamese young people worked gently and methodically on our feet, while the ballads played. I kid you not. At one point, all four Vietnamese voices together began to sing,
When the girl next to me finished the old man’s feet, she asked him again, “It good, Daddy?” He didn’t respond. She stood and asked his wife, “Mommy, I help with his shoes?” The woman didn’t understand what she meant, so she repeated it a couple of times, then held up his socks and shoes. “Oh,” the lady said, “Yes. He can’t put them on by himself.” The Vietnamese girl said, “No problem. I take care of you, Daddy.”
She gently put his socks on his feet, and then started trying to put on his shoes. His toes went in just fine, of course, but the heel was stiff. She didn’t know what to do. He tried to help her, shoving his feet in intermittent thrusts. The wife noticed and said, “Oh, he uses a shoe spoon at home.” “Spoon? He use spoon?” The pedicurist giggled and covered her mouth with her hand. She then turned and called for the young man who had taken the shoes off. She spoke several sentences in Vietnamese, that I took as explanation of her need for a shoe helper.
The young man jumped up from his seat, where he had been sitting idly, looking at his smart phone. He rushed to help. “Don’t worry, Daddy. I here. I here.” He loosened the laces and slipped the old man’s tired feet back into those stiff, perfectly polished, dress shoes. Then he handed the man his cane, and helped him to his feet.
The Vietnamese girl looked at me and saw the tears now streaming down my cheeks. “You okay, honey? You okay?” I told her I was fine. I told her I thought she was so kind, so respectful. Then I asked her a question.
I have a friend. His toe nails are maybe grown an inch past the end of his toes. Some of them have curled over. And they are thick. I made measurements with my fingers to show her what I meant. I was not exaggerating.
Chronic pain and physical limitations make it impossible for my friend to reach his feet. Sometime last year, I tried to cut his toe nails. My tools were inadequate, and honestly, so was my strength. I ended up gauging away a little piece at a time, until at least his nails were not scraping the inside of his oversized shoes. But they were a disaster when I finished.
As I described my friend’s toes to this beautiful, young woman, she said, “No problem. I can do it.” I said, “Well, my friend lives outside. He doesn’t have a home.” I looked her in the eye, trying to make sure she understood what I I was saying. “His feet might not be very clean.” Her eyes widened just a bit. Then she put her hand on mine, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “You bring him here. We take care of him. We take care of him.”
*You Raise Me Up was written by Brendan Graham and Rolf Lovland, but performed by Josh Groban on the TV at Nails2K