I’ve felt great the last few weeks, able to focus on thoughts of the future for the first time in many months. I’ve been on sabbatical this semester and actually met all my sabbatical goals early. This gave me some unexpected time to start trying to make sense of my late husband’s pride and joy, the garage, which he dubbed Garage Majal.
The task of going through the things of someone who died seems to go on and on. My husband died 22 months ago and I am still cleaning out the garage. A friend went through the garage soon after Tom died and collected and sold the valuable tools. His brother got the motorcycles.
What’s left is rafting and camping gear, random motorcycle stuff, equipment related to his many hobbies, a foosball table, and a leather couch. There’s a story behind each item, which makes going through them, let alone parting with them, very difficult.
Many times when I’ve gone out determined to organize the camping gear, I’ve been overcome by tears instead. I’ll touch the tent and remember how thrilled I was the first time we camped together and I realized he had a big tent. (No, that’s not a euphemism. 😊 I’m somewhat claustrophobic and prefer to sleep under the stars with no tent at all; the next best thing is a big tent.) The sleeping bag still has dog hair in it from his last road trip with one of our dogs—thinking “last road trip” immediately brings a lump to my throat.
Opening the cabinet where his motorcycle gear hangs always knocks the breath out of me. Seeing his leather jacket triggers so many strong memories: the time we rode a motorcycle to Oregon with his cousin, the many times we took the motorcycle with a sidecar out on a weekend night and made a splashy arrival somewhere, me emerging from the sidecar in heels and a dress, and more.
I can’t look at the foosball table without remembering the day Tom came home from work in the middle of the day positively giddy because he had driven past a yard sale in the company truck and scored a foosball table for $20. He had to drop it off at home to avoid going back to work with a foosball table in tow. I don’t play foosball myself, but as long as I have room for it in the garage, the foosball table stays.
Although I’ve been out to the garage hundreds of times since he died, I still make new discoveries. Last week I noticed a gray sleeve hanging down from a shelf that is high enough I hadn’t seen it before. It was the sleeve to a dark gray hoodie I remember him wearing on our last camping trip together. One pocket was full of dog treats.
Finding the hoodie set off a weekend of sobbing. My daughter came over one night to walk the dogs and found me immobile on the couch. She stayed with me for a few hours, first holding me on the couch, then sitting on the kitchen floor with the dogs and me. We reminisced about the many adventures Tom brought to our lives: rafting and camping trips, making us dog people, living in a trailer park. We remembered my trips with him to Cuba and Europe and him putting gender neutral signs on the porta potties on a construction site he worked on where pretty much everyone else who worked there had a MAGA bumper sticker. We laughed about how nobody ever messed with him except for “some old cowboy in Wyoming,” and Tom allowed that he had that coming because he had disparaged the old cowboy’s horse.
It’s still hard to believe that this man who lived life with so much gusto could be gone, and there are still days where I feel like I will never be whole again, but they pass and I do feel whole again.
Someone posted in one of the Facebook widow groups a few weeks ago, “When I post about my husband, it’s not to get sympathy, it’s to keep his memory alive.” That is one reason I blog and am working on a memoir: as long as I keep writing about that man who lived life with so much gusto, he isn’t really gone.