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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Granddaddy's Garage (Nana's House)

Last week, I was at my grandparent's house spending time with my grandparents, cousins and aunt before we all headed out to LongHorn for my cousin, Chris' birthday. I ended up going outside to read. I walked out to the two-car garage that my grandfather built and found a stepping stool chair to sit on. I was struck by the comfortableness of the garage and it brought back so many memories.

He would clear out the car and truck from the garage on sunny and rainy days, alike, so that we could roller skate or bike ride on the concrete. We would turn on the little radio that he had sitting at his work table, tuned to 98.7 WMZQ. We would dance and sing along to the music, while my Nana and Granddaddy watched us and laughed. Most of the time Granddaddy was working on a project or something in his work area and never failed to ask me who I was thinking about, when a love song came on the radio :)

The familiar scents of the garage brought back memories too. The scent is a mixture of woodchips, motor oil and depending on the time of year you can smell wood smoke from the furnace he uses to keep it warm. Hanging around various points in the garage are our old bikes, roller skates, sleds, and past science projects that belong to my cousin. The garage just screams pieces of my life.

Even the chair I sat on is part of it. Its a tall stool that has steps underneath that you can pull out for either a footrest or ladder, depending on how you are using it. Its all metal and I was surprised to find only a little rust on it. The stool used to be in the kitchen in my Nana's house, ironically, right next to the radio. We would sit on the stool, while listening to music, and help Nana bake her famous chocolate chip cookies. When my sister's were small they would stand on the stool and help with the baking.

I realized that so much of my past is wrapped in a neat little package called Nana and Granddaddy's farm. We spent alot of our childhood there. We loved sleeping over because my uncle would make us milkshakes by hand. (It was the only time we knew he liked us, lol, otherwise he was always affectionately calling us "bad kids").

When we spent the night, I would sleep in my uncle's old room and my sister's would sleep in Nana's room. She had two double beds and then put a cot in the middle of them, so Julie would have someplace to sleep. When it came time for bed, she would scoot Jody and Julie into bed and kiss me goodnight before joining them.

When the house was quiet, I would gently take the headphones off the old receiver and plug it in, turning it on (careful not to let it make too much of a popping sound in the old speakers). I would tune it to my favorite radio station at the time and listen to music on the floor until I got too tired and then laid back in bed. Most of the time, my Nana would wake me up by taking the headphones off in the late morning.

I just loved those snippets of my childhood. The garage has new cars in it. The work area has now kind of been taken over by my cousin and his projects and the radio is tuned to classic rock instead of country; but never was there a time when I felt more safe, comforted and loved. We still make cookies with Nana and dance to the music on the radio. It seemed so fitting that Jman and I stay with my Nana, while my dad was sick; because I knew that I would be ok there, and I was right!

The Pedestal

For some reason, I've been thinking about the past a lot lately. I'm sure we all have some things that we would change if we could. Maybe its saying what was left unsaid, or reconfiguring a course of events, or maybe taking back something that you said that was hurtful. In my case, I've realized that I've placed a select number of people in my life up on a pedestal. Nothing but pain can come from that.

I'm thinking specifically of a guy that, for all intents and purposes, used to be my world. From the time I was eight years old (to his 15) I thought he hung the moon. He is one of the four men in my life that I believe had a direct hand into making me who I am today. For years after our first meeting, I thought about him - not really knowing much more about him other then the week we had together at a vacation bible school.

It wasn't until I was 15 that we got back in touch. He came back into my life at a time when I was dating someone that really wasn't good for me. He wanted to protect me and I think it was a huge ego boost for him, when I pulled out the lone picture I had of us together, when I was eight. From that point on, we were almost inseparably close. He was there for my sweet 16, I was there when he joined the Marines, and ultimately he was the first one I called when I had the news that I was engaged. I didn't even have to tell him - he knew.

The problem was, I spent YEARS praying and hoping and wishing that someday he would see me as more then that little eight year old girl. Myself, along with his grandmother, were the two people that he could count on receiving mail from when he was stationed elsewhere, nearly every week. Ugh! The novels I would write to him - I think I would be embarrassed to read them now - but I always tried to be so encouraging of him. I even told him, when I was 18, how I felt about him; but nothing ever changed on his end.

My place in his life seemed to be that of the cheerleader and admirer. It wasn't until last year, when I tried to contact him via snail mail, that I realized that I was probably just a blip on his life radar. See, the thing is, he never responded. We were close for over 10 years and he couldn't even acknowledge my letter. I felt like someone punched me in my gut. I wasn't so naive that I thought we could pick up where we left off in our friendship; but I did expect him to have the courtesy to let me know that he received my letter in some way.

I knew he was married - I am too. I wasn't looking for a romantic connection. I have a son, I have no idea if he has children or not; but I hope he does - he would make a great father. What I wanted was that connection to my past. It was something I desperately needed when my father passed away. I needed to connect to the people that I felt knew the real me and loved me anyway. Who knows, maybe I hurt him along the way, not realizing it. Maybe his wife is the jealous sort. I really don't know; but I can tell you that I felt the strongest sense of rejection that I think I've ever felt in my life.

This is what I mean by The Pedestal. There are people in our life, that knowingly or not, we give power over our emotions to. When they do not react how we thought they would or when they don't react at all, it hurts us. We hold them in such high esteem, that when they actually do fall short of our expectations, we don't know what to do with that information. The lesson I learned is that he is human. It really put things in perspective for me.

I've learned over the last 3 years, going through the pain of watching my father deal with his cancer, and later burying the only man in my life that still held my hand; there really are people who are in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I found out who my true friends were during that stressful time and its something that I will never take for granted. It was eye-opening though, to find out how few friends I had. I think that is how life is though. When we are in high school we surround ourselves with groups to belong to. As we get older, some of those people might drift away and new people might come into your life.

My father always said that if I had one true friend, I was blessed. Well I now realize how true that really is and I'm all the more thankful that I have more then one true friend. I don't have to rely on the past, I have all I need in the here and now.