Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wood Piles and Sweaty Little Scripture Books

This from Lena:
It was the wood in the garage that did me in.  It pulled me out of denial, basically. The wood is stacked every which way in my parents’ garage.  It is evident that my dad thought through how he was going to keep all that stored…there is a sort of order to it, even though the overall appearance is chaos.  Piles and piles of it.  What was it that he was planning on making?  He clearly had enough lumber to make a tree house, a tool shed, AND replace the picnic table he made 30 years ago.   Interspersed are dry, stripped   chair frames with a broken leg or lacking a seat that he was going to fix and refurbish for someone so long ago that we don’t remember who owned them.
Emotionally, people generally deal with belongings of their departed dear ones in one of two ways.  They either cling to it for dear life, as if it actually WAS the person who is now gone from this earth, or they robotically pitch it the day after the funeral because it hurts to look at it.  I lean toward the pitch (to the frustration of my more sentimental momma and sisters), dreaming of what I would do if I had 24 hours and free reign to purge, but the wood did something else in my heart besides propel me to throw it to the curb.  It tore a hole in a veil of denial in my own heart.
My dad was an awesome guy.   He was happiest when he was downstairs in his workshop , working on a piece of furniture.  My dad was a printer who worked in a constant drone of heavy machinery, and often arrived frazzled and exhausted—and yes, crabby-- to three giggly girls.  The three of us knew to leave him alone if he was reading or in the bathroom (we fought over who had to interrupt him to ask him something many times) but we also KNEW that if Dad was downstairs in his workshop listening to jazz music, it was the best time of all to talk to him.  When the conditions were right, one of us would feel the change in the environment and head downstairs for a heart to heart.  He was his best there—kind,  thoughtful, wise---and contented.  He loved furniture, wood, the smell of varnish.  At the root, I know exactly what my dad was thinking when he lovingly gathered each stick of lumber.  Each one was a little creative dream that was brewing in his heart.  Those dreams started small, but grew.  There are woodworking magazines in the house, bookmarked with the seeds of a project.  I don’t really know if he ever started preparing to make these things.  I just know that there is a ton of wood out there, and that somewhere in my teen years, most of the wood dreams slowed to a narrow trickle.
I do the same thing with quilting fabric.  My rate of production as a quilter is similar to some plant in a botanical garden that only blooms once a decade.  I take pictures of Spanish tiles in Peru that I want to reproduce in a quilt.  I page through Pinterest when I am bored and look for ideas.  I have three quilt projects that are undone and sitting to my side, untouched for at least a year.  I totally understand the wood. 
I also understand---and this awareness has come through the pain of losing my dad---that the dreams we will have on this earth will end.  In my 20s, I lived like life was an eternal proposition.  I was full of dreams, but the push to see them come true was somewhat vague, and seemed far off. 
Now in my 40s, I have lost my dad, whose dreams are still out in the garage, untouched.  My back hurts and it takes a few seconds when I get up to work out the kinks.  I wear progressive lenses and sensible shoes.  OK, so I have always worn sensible shoes, but that is beside the point.  I don’t really want to be inspired anymore…I want to be confronted.  I want to dangerously rip the rest of the veil off that I caught a glimpse of in the garage that day, because if I don’t, I might die with way too many bins of fabric.  I don’t want my kids to rummage through my belongings with sadness for all the things I dreamed of but never dared attempt.  And that is a real danger—much sadder than trying and failing and dragging a wood pile to the curb.
 I want them to treasure just a few things of mine.  I have been working for the last year on Bible memorization, one book at a time.  I am not fabulous at it at all.  Every verse seems to be a fight.  But when I die, my goal is to have a huge stack of these little booklets I use to memorize as I walk, and that my kids will be tempted to fight over them because of the meaning and perseverance it produced in my life--although if they don’t, I will understand, because they are really sticky and gross!  But you get the picture.  I want them to want my recipe book, because I put a lot of care into making them good meals.  I want them to even HAVE enough quilts so that each one can have one (as of today, only Hannah owns one)--a few things, and not too many wood piles.

So, I am carefully examining my wood piles these days.  I am fairly confident that some of them will be thrown to the curb, because not all wood piles are created equally.  Some I would have liked to do, but the time has passed.  Some I have tried to get rid of, but they keep on finding a way back into my heart and announcing their permanence in my life, the way a truly God-breathed wood pile does.  It hurts to tell myself the truth about the things I have delayed, as though God would just drop them into my life without my investment, but truth is always harder at first, much more fruitful later.  When I think about what I want my kids to find in the garage at the end of my life, the answer is:  a car!  That would be fabulous.  A few woodpiles aren't the end of world, especially because that means I was still dreaming when I went home.  But mostly a car.