More than just a memory…

Sydney begins her summer project, May 2014

“Wherever I am, you’ll always be

More than just a memory

If I ever leave this world alive”

– Flogging Molly

How long does it take to paint a garage?

Answer: Somewhere between five years and what feels like forever.

Given that life – and death – intervened in that span of time maybe five-and-a-half years isn’t all that long.

My daughter, Sydney, having returned home from a school year at Indiana University agreed to take on the project for the summer of 2014. I think I agreed to pay her $10 an hour. The summer before I painted the house proper so I was excited to think that the entire manse at 1358 Maple Avenue would be “Daisy Spell” yellow with white trim by the time Sydney returned to IU for her next school year.

How does the saying begin? “The best of intentions…” Sydney painted one garage door that summer…then returned to school. I think I painted the other garage door that fall. Where Sydney had taken the time to edge around the windows on her door, I did not, preferring the “scrape later” method of edging a window.

The following summer I think I got a coat or two of yellow on the front of the garage. And for the next couple of years that’s how the garage stayed. Yellow and white on the front, though the eaves were still the same grey as the other three sides.

I found some energy to start the 2018 painting season. I finished painting one side and had moved on to the back alley-side. May 25 was a beautiful early summer day. Perfect for painting. I spent the morning going up and down the ladder and progressing across the back of the garage, turning grey into a bright, happy yellow, when sirens started zipping by on Connor Street (one street north of where I live) followed by helicopters and then more sirens heading west across the White River.

My neighbor came out to tell me that there had been a shooting at the West Middle School. Oh, God. Then the sirens and helicopters came back towards me. I went inside to learn that there were active shooters at the high school as well. Good God!

Thankfully, there were no fatalities at West Middle School and the High School shooters turned out to be a prankster’s hoax but the trauma for all those involved was no less.

Two weeks passed.  On June 6 I had just cleaned up from an afternoon of painting the garage when I received the telephone call about Sydney in Africa.  Twelve hours later I was on a plane heading across the Atlantic.

I never thought that courage and fortitude and deep breaths would be necessary to complete a painting project.  (I never would have thought that the same would be needed for my brother to sing “If I Ever Leave This World Alive” at a recent concert his band performed.  We have played that song together for years only to have it’s meaning radically altered with Sydney’s death.)

This 2019 Summer I managed to finish painting the garage; actually finished today, September 28, so a bit into the Fall of 2019.  I did so in two-hour fits and spurts because two hours is about all I could manage at a time being unable to breathe filled with memory and fear and sadness and loss that had been wrapped around this project.

The garage has been painted.

Sydney, your painting project is complete.

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