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Boys and Their Toys

Last Saturday was Matt’s regular ‘Garage Night’…his bimonthly get together to work on the Chevette drag car project. Over the course of the summer Chad, Blake, and Matt have spent many hours out there getting dirty, sweaty, and generally making a big ‘ol mess. Occasionally I’ll pop out to chat with the boys for a while and ‘inspect’ the progress, and bring them treats, of course, but generally I let them do their thing. It is a guy thing for sure. I don’t know if I can fully explain what these garage nights mean to me…but here is my attempt.

Two years ago, on a cold winter evening, Mom and Dad and I took the Trans Am to meet up with a car hauler who would be loading it for the drive to its new owner in Florida. Matt stayed behind at home, not wanting to watch the car be hauled away. It was so hard to watch it go…it was such a part of our history together. I was with him when he went to go look at it, it was our get away car at our wedding, I drove him home after he blew up the engine in Marshalltown, and I watched him toil over rebuilding the new engine. That car was Matt, through and through. And knowing he would never drive it again…well, it still breaks my heart to think about. It was a big sacrifice for him to sell it to help pay for the trip to China. But it also signaled his doubt in whether or not he’d ever love cars like he used to. I had hoped in my heart that he would someday get to the place where he could enjoy them again, even though it was different. But it was something I couldn’t push or force, he had to get there on his own.

Buying the Chevette last summer was the first little spark…the first twinkle…that said to me he was getting there. And oh, I wanted to do all I could to feed the fire. It’s been slow work, finding time that works for the guys…knowing it’s a huge commitment from them to work on the car. But Blake and Chad…they’ve proven themselves time and again. I know it’s been a huge pain for them...dirty, sweaty work. But I can tell you I always hear more laughter coming from the garage than swearing! The time they spend together out there on that car means so much more than the work they are doing to it. Infinitely more.

This past weekend they guys found themselves at a crossroads with the car. The new engine does not look like it’s going to fit into the Chevette…at least, not without a fight. I’m sure that if we had more tools, space, and resources they could finish the project…but realistically, we don’t. And soon they’ll have to decide where to go with the project. Matt and I talked about it yesterday while driving in the car and I could sense that he was throwing out lots of options, as if he were concerned about how I felt. He was worried that if they couldn’t make it work, I’d think he wasted all this time and money.

I told him, not a chance. The time he’s spent working on that car with his friends – you can’t put a price on it. The significance is huge. To me it says a lot about where Matt is at in his life…what he has accepted, and how he chooses to find the joy in things. I know how sorely he misses being able to drive…especially a hot rod. I know how badly he wishes it was him bent over the engine bay tearing things apart. But there he is out there with the guys, looking on, giving input, getting tools, and being as big a part of it as he possibly can. And that, my friends, is the good stuff.

We’ve been talking off and on this summer about how much fun we could have with a cruiser. You know, a car of some sort that we could take out from time to time, maybe go to Porky’s or a car show…just enjoy driving it. Something that he wouldn’t have to put a lot of work into…but we could just have fun with. We’d talked about finishing the Chevette project and taking it out to the drag strip a few times, then selling it to find us a cruiser. Now, it may make more sense to just sell the Chevette and focus on a cruiser. We’ll see. The bottom line I wanted him to realize is that I would never be upset if he couldn’t complete the Chevette project how he originally wanted. To me, we’ve already reaped the rewards of buying it. Even if he never gets to see Chad or Blake or my Mom (HA!) drive it down the drag strip, I’m ok with that. The Chevette was a stepping stone, of sorts. A test to get his feet wet and see how it felt. And it felt good to get dirty in the garage…it felt good to think about the car project and what he might do. It felt good to ignite that part of himself again…even if it is profoundly different. It means a lot…a whole heck of a lot…though he’d likely never say so.

At the end of the conversation…he told me he loved me and his voice cracked a little…and then he said ‘you get me’. I squeezed his knee and said ‘we get each other’, my eyes a little wet. And we do…we really, really do.


Emily said…
You two are indomitable. God bless your every aspiration. I can't wait to see you roll into church in your hotrod one of these days.

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