Our garage was Simon’s happy place. He had a desk out there when he needed a quiet space to sort out work documents. He had a variety of tools, many inherited from my late grandfather who was a contractor, and enjoyed using them to make, change, and fix all sorts of things. Simon had a large bookshelf that housed his many Bible commentaries, devotionals, comics, graphic novels, yearbooks, and titles that involved the word Texas. He had a dartboard and would spend an evening or two a week with his friends out in that garage – catching up, blowing off steam, or discussing philosophy. There was always music playing, usually some form of jazz or old country. Kids were always welcome back there with him unless it was past their bedtime or the conversations with friends got too serious for little ears.
With all that for context, you can imagine it has been an emotional task to rummage through the space. Simon has been gone 18 months and I’ve organized maybe twenty percent of it. Cleaning has been a slow, deliberate process. I could have rushed through it to avoid the hurt and reclaim precious California square footage but I knew it had to be more intentional for my sake and the children’s sake. It’s a cryfest nearly every time I’m in there but it’s also rich with memories. Here are two discoveries from this week.
I found THE Ice Scraper and fondly recalled our first fight ever. It was the winter of 2004. I had been living in Texas less than a month and was freaking out over the cold, icy weather. It was foreign to me. One early morning, I was warming my car up to head to work. The windshield was iced over and I couldn’t clear it with a towel or squeegee. I called Simon at his apartment and he rushed over half asleep to remedy the situation since I was out of ideas at that moment. It was his day off so I asked him to pick up an Ice Scraper at Walmart later. The problem would be solved and we could avoid this debacle in the future. I had seen the scrapers on sale for a dollar. He was perplexed. His exact words were, “Why would anyone make an extra trip to the store and spend a dollar when you have an Ice Scraper in your wallet?!” He pulled out his credit card and began chipping away at the ice, centimeter by centimeter. I’ll admit, I kind of lost it on him. While I appreciated his thrifty, Boy Scout-y mentality, I told him that he was crossing the threshold from frugal to cheap and if he would rather manually destroy his credit cards and spend three times longer doing a job than to just spend a dollar, that he needed to find a new girlfriend. I sped off to work with a partially cleared windshield and vowed to pick up an Ice Scraper on my next day off. There was no need. When I arrived home that night, there was a brand new one, complete with a red bow, waiting on my dining room table. We referenced that first fight often and concluded that, sometimes, it’s just better to spend a dollar.
I’ve also uncovered many pictures during these “garage therapy” sessions, leading to the second discovery this week. Simon was sentimental and saved pictures and mementos that evoked fond memories. A vast majority are of me or the kids. He loved us more than anything and I never felt otherwise. Among the many pictures of us and his extended family, there were a few specific photos from his college years. Knowing that these photos were taken back in the days where one had actual camera film that had to be developed by the roll, it was clear Simon had sorted through the photos and just kept the most meaningful. There were two photos from when he was baptized in a lake surrounded by friends. There were pictures of Simon with his college roommates, rocking bleached hair, then blue hair. And lastly, there were seven photos from a trip to New York that he took during his internship with Wonder Voyage. That trip was instrumental for Simon. It was out of his comfort zone which he realized was a perfect fit for his personality. There he learned that his heart was for the marginalized, the homeless, and, to put it bluntly, the freaks. He fell in love with the city and talked about returning often. He also deeply cared for his fellow Wonder Voyage staff. The photos he handpicked to save from that trip nearly 15 years ago included a view of the city skyline, headshots of homeless man he befriended, and a shot of his coworker, and my future husband, Jason.
Even after death, I continue to get to know Simon. And it keeps getting better. What a privilege to have been his wife and to raise his children. What an honor to marry another Godly man who respects Simon’s legacy while creating a legacy of his own.