The Garage

It didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen last month or even last year. But, it happened. Slowly, like creeping urban decay, until it became overwhelming. I had lost the battle, I had lost my garage.

I have never been one of those spotless garage people. Those individuals with a gardening implement or two neatly hung on a wall. The ones with the epoxied floors, and painted rafters. That was never me.

But once I did have a functional garage, a usable space that could house cars. That was decades ago. Before marriage, before kids, before swimming noodles, before sleds, before junk.

I coped with the garage by no longer thinking of it as a place for cars, instead, it became a storage shed. A shed that would get organized about once a year. The organization was a paltry event, I pushed things around the floor, and swept the dead leaves out to the curb.

The lack of order bothered my friend Tom, who is a bit more OCD than I am. “Wouldn’t it be nice if you could park a car in here?” He would say. Tom approached me on this topic with two irrefusable offers. The use of his personal dumpster, and the gift of his construction knowledge.

The project started a month ago by getting rid of two old and rotting dresser. They went from housing clothing to holding junk long ago. Into the traveling dumpster they went, so decayed that they fell apart on removal.

A week ago Tom had completed a demolition of a customer’s bathroom. His traveling dumpster revisited, as it had some extra dumpster room. More junk was thrown away.

Off to the curb went useful things for the garbage pickers. Old framed pictures, small electrics, a kerosene heater purchased in 1999 on the Y2K advice of a prominent engineer who was my patient at the time. But there was so much more stuff.

Tom offered to help build some shelves for me. Not the flimsy ones that I could probably assemble myself, but sturdy ones strong enough to hold a man standing on them (we actually tested this). Easter Saturday started with the buzz of power tools emerging from my garage.

Enter my wonderful teenage kids, who offered only a little resistance when I asked for their help. Will, overtired from late adventures with his friends. Grace, trying to finish up some homework so she could go to a party with hers. Despite their personal needs, they gave me their time.

I truthfully asked for only 40 minutes of effort. That effort actually stretched to over 2.5 hours.

Both kids questioned every item. “Dad, do you really need this? When was the last time you used it?”

Piles started to form. Items decayed by the garage’s unheated dampness. Useless parts that could no longer be paired with their mates. Outright garbage, saved for no apparent reason. These items went into the garbage pile.

There was also a lot of good, but useless stuff. An outdoor TV antenna, duplicate camping gear, a kerosene lamp, and so on. These items created a huge pile. That pile soon to be transported to the curb on Monday garbage night. Hopefully, to the garbage pickers delight.

Dirty and dusty work that caused my skin to itch, and my nose to run. My kids never complained, they just helped. I was proud of them.

We eventually reached a point where there was no more floor space. The piles had overtaken it. I said one last time, “I think we have done enough for today.” Gracie chimed in, “It will be easier to continue once all of this mess is taken out, and we have more floor space to work with.” My wise Gracie, who always seem to know the right thing to say.

At this moment the garage looks worse than ever. The below picture was carefully angled to only show the new shelving unit. Despite the mess, I know an order is near, perhaps in another weekend or two.

I am very happy with the idea of having a clean garage. However, I am happier with having kind and wonderful people in my life. Cleaning and organizing the garage seemed as impossible as climbing Mount Everest to me. It was easier to shuffle things around and sweep the floor than to really dig in, throw stuff out, and make the garage functional again.

The garage made me think of my life. How often do I allow business as usual, simply because I believe that it would take too much work for me to change? How often is my present life less functional because of old trash from the past? How often do I rely only on myself, when it would be so much easier if I shared my burden with someone else? I have people in my life who care about me, but their efforts only count if I let them in. My garage helpers are giving me a functional garage. A practical offering of help. An offering that I am most grateful to have.

When I have a rough patch in my life I can feel unlovable and unworthy. Sometimes the help that I get from people who care about me doesn’t fix anything. That help simply lets me know that I’m worthy of love, concern, and attention. It lets me know that I am still valued despite my problems, flaws, and imperfections. For me, that is the most powerful and valued help of all. When I truly connect with others, the impossible becomes possible. Our combined strength is not additive, instead, it grows exponentially.

Today, gratitude is my goal.- Happy Easter from Dr. Mike

The shelves that Tom and I built. So strong that a man can stand on them.