The heavy rains of Saturday were forecast to turn into "wintry mix" Sunday morning, the accu-guess folks way of saying "freezing rain" around these parts. They weren't far off, so I tucked the truck into the garage and stayed home, knowing I'd go on bat phone status Monday evening. When I'm not on call and at the BOR (Bug Out Range), the truck is in the driveway, the large garage being a shop, containing tools and an assortment of British automotive parts and the Triumph mother ship.
I like it that way. It's a place where tools are old, wood is honed, metal is bent and burnt offerings are offered to Lucas, Prince of Darkness or Dimness, depending upon your religious persuasion. It's easy to spend hours out there without realizing it, the space between tasks still composing time, yet consisting of minutes that no longer run straight ahead in diminishing allotment, but rather run parallel between, like looping bands of wiring, without apparent ending.
It is only when the light fades and the stomach growls that one looks up and notes the time, setting down the tools, rendering the machinery mute, returning to the house, a faint shadow against the steps in the fading West.
Most of my neighbors are parked in the driveway, their garages full of "stuff", boxes, bikes, lawn and exercise equipment, you name it. When I was a kid, it seemed most of our cars were actually IN the garage. Ours was a dark green ranch house with a dark green Chevy Malibu in the garage. Outside, at the front edge of the lawn, there was a a huge tree that Mom loved, that draped its branches over the driveway like a canopy, filling up the gutters with leaves every year.
No one seems to have their cars in their garages any more. Is it because we now, as a society, amass more "stuff", or are we more transitory, moving more often, with those things that are precious to us, left in boxes in the garage in between? It's a little bit of both, perhaps.
Now it's empty, but for the meals I make for him and freeze in individual containers for later and always, a tub of ice cream. When I go to put things away, I'll just stand there for a moment after the freezer door closes, breathing in the bracing density of cold air laced with pine and motor oil, a smell I love, even after all these years. It is the smell of morning's breath, full of wood and silence.
Off to one side of the garage is a big work bench, with cupboards built above for storage. He doesn't use it any more, but it has not changed, except for the calender, always the smiling, buxom girl in shorts and a T-shirt or a swim suit, selling tools or beer.
In the shadows of the other side of the garage are deep storage cabinets where Dad stores all his fishing and outdoor gear. Everything is meticulously kept in place, even as the fabric of the net rots, laying in wait with that spent but alert quality that aging things bear, as if they doubted the absoluteness of their eventual discard, as if they will be necessary and needed tomorrow.
In the drive there used to be a little VW Beetle, Mom's official Bug out Vehicle. But the Chevy was always stored in the garage, but for those rainy weekends where we set up the Lionel trains on large pieces of sheet plywood, spray painted green, sitting on trestles. Old Pringle containers were fastened underneath to hold the tracks, and we'd run the trains along frantic loops of track until our stomachs growled and the fading evening light illuminated them like silvered spider webs that run off into the distance. Only then, on Sunday night, were the trains put away amidst the other supplies.
In the corner of the garage were my parents golf clubs, in front of them, space for our bikes. My last one was a Huffy 10 speed that Dad waited hours to bid on at at a police auction of unclaimed bikes, knowing how much I wanted a new yellow Schwinn, knowing he couldn't afford $100 for one. He got it, and cleaned it all up so it looked new. I wasn't what I'd wanted, but it was much more, as it was offered with quiet and undiluted love, the faithful care and attention that most don't put into anything any more. That was a lesson that I may not have recognized then, but I do today.
The only decor in the garage was the tacky Mexican bull fighting picture he bought for their first home which was immediately banished to the garage. It joined a well used dart board and other works of fine art that found a home there.
Fortunately, Dad recovered quickly, but he can't do the close up detailed work. He still had other handyman things to play with, but after I caught him trying to clean some fallen leaves out of the gutter standing on a ladder with a leaf blower, some of the more hazardous toys were put away.
For example, one day something new appeared on the wall of the large laundry room It was a large linoleum square, from which protruded an extension rod from which one could hang hangared clothes as they came out of the dryer. Pretty nifty I thought. Then, as Paul Harvey said, came the "Rest of the Story". My Dad works out with weights six days a week, always has. One morning a weight ended up well into the wall on the upswing. Drywall is for wimps!
I love my Dad, he's like a tactical Red Green.
As I stood on the step from garage to laundry room , hitting the button for the garage door, I took in the sight, the smell of it. I can't imagine it not being here, something that just IS, like the loud CRACK of a bat hitting a whiffle ball, the bounce of a bicycle off of gravel as kids come careening into home, the way an old baseball game seeps out of a transistor radio as my Dad works away, sounds that echo even as the door closes and darkness descends