“Hey, Boy! You have those shoes ready for me yet?”

It was our usual Sunday routine. As the son of a preacher man, I took pride in shining my father’s dress shoes. He taught me how to do a detailed, thorough job on his soft leather, zip-up dress shoes. They were made from black, shiny leather, reaching just a bit above his ankle.

I’d watch him polish those shoes as a small child. I was fascinated with the detail and effort he’d put into making them shine. I loved when he’d bring out his brown wooden shine box. It had a little step built into the handle. The box itself was sturdy despite being old.

I’d love to know its age. I never thought to look for a date on it back then when I used it weekly. He took ownership of it when his own father passed away on the night of my dad’s high school prom. A brain aneurysm took him at far too young of an age.

That story always made me sad for him. Sad for me, too. I never got to know my grandfather who played a stand-up bass in the Los Angeles nightclub scene of the 50s and 60s. I heard he was incredible.

He once played with Desi Arnaz. Xavier Cougat invited him to come along on his European tour. My grandfather passed on the invitation. He had six kids and a wife to take care of. He couldn’t just quit his job to play music for several months.

But he did pass along his ability and love of music to his sons. My father not only pastored the churches we attended growing up but also played the acoustic guitar while singing. He’d lead the worship service and sometimes sang a solo to soundtrack music before delivering his weekly Sunday sermon.

And his shoes would shine on that stage. The lighting would reflect from the tips of those black, shiny dress boots. And I’d smile, proud that I was the one who made them look so good.

My father wasn’t the most patient man at times. I learned from an early age to tread lightly and to pay attention to details. When we’d leave the house each morning for school, he’d yell to us, “PAY ATTENTION!” as we flew out the door to catch the school bus.

To this day, I’m still always aware of my surroundings, no matter where I find myself. In public, out in nature, even under my own roof. I am always alert and careful. I’ve been cautious my entire life, thanks to Dad’s prompting.

One of his lessons I learned young was how to shine his dress shoes. In grade school, he sat down with me and taught me the details of shining shoes. He carefully laid out the components of his shine kit on top of an old towel. He was careful about not having accidents with black shoe polish on our living room carpet.

It took a lot of trust to allow a grade school boy to shine his shoes. Small children aren’t always detail-oriented. They are easily distracted and sometimes clumsy. As smart as I was, mistakes could happen. I didn’t want to ruin anything.

I was careful every time. I’d lay out the shoe polish can, the rag that I’d apply the polish with, the horsehair brush, and the soft buffing cloth. I’d carefully place each boot on the shine-box stand one at a time and do the things my father taught me. They’d look brand new every time I’d shine them every Sunday.

I visited my father this past weekend at his home. He’s battling prostate cancer and it has aged him considerably in just six months. He asked me for some help moving a few boxes from his upstairs bonus room to their storage shed.

As I gathered the boxes of books and other odds and ends he didn’t need in the upstairs room, I came across something that stopped me in my tracks. My heart skipped a beat. I couldn’t believe what I saw.

Dad’s old shine box.

He still had it. I put the box down that I was holding and picked up the kit. 40 years later, it seemed to be in the same condition as I remembered it. He chuckled and noticed the wide-eyed look of his son.

“I can’t believe you still have this!” I stammered, stunned by what I was holding.

He smiled and replied, “Yep. I haven’t used that though in years. Probably only a handful of times since you used to do a number on my Sunday dress boots.”

I carefully opened it. The same tools I remember using were there. It felt like I’d opened a time capsule from the 1980s. It had the same smell, the patterns on the shine rag even seemed identical to how I remembered them.

I finished helping him move the boxes and it was time for me to head home. He mentioned that he had an appointment with his oncology doctor the next morning. It was a sad, somber moment we shared at his door. But then I had an idea.

“Hey, Pop. How about a shoe-shine? I’ll make you look like a million bucks when you walk into the doctor’s office tomorrow. What do you say, for old time’s sake?”

He reluctantly agreed to let me give it a go one more time. He watched me take my time and lovingly shine his black dress shoes. I could tell how much it meant to him. We were both surprised how easily I remembered the steps, four decades later.

That may be the final shoe shine I do for my Dad. Though I hope we have several more years left with him, there are no such guarantees in life. But I’ll always remember my father’s shine box and the pride I took in making his dress shoes look their best.

This article was originally published at Medium. Republished with permission from the author.