I don’t know what took me so long to think about garage sales as being the perfect place to meet a total stranger, but there I am staring at a bunch of old clothes and electronics from a neighbor I never met.
I am starting to wonder how many houses in my community hide unmarried men’s weird stuff.
"Is that real leather?” I asked, pointing to a shiny, brown coat folded over a heap of men’s dress shirts and suits.
“I think so,” Liz said. “Try it on.” And it fit perfectly.
I liked it up until she said, “I don’t know if it’s for a man or a woman, but it fits.”
As it turns out it was easy. Because Liz is very easy going. She is the sister of a neighbor I never met. He was a doctor. And not just any doctor but one of the leading cardiologists of his day. His heart gave out earlier this year and Liz (and her husband Declan) came from Galway, Ireland to close his estate.
“He was always saving up. This was his big investment,” she said pointing to the piles of clothes that would have made Goodwill green with envy. I found out quickly that the doctor never married. But it took some time to get Liz to tell me when she got married. “1982.” And they have remained married because, as Liz told me, “we’re not steamy and romantic, but we work well with each other.” The romance of an accountant and a computer coder in the Regan years.
Not long after they said their vows, she and Declan set out to change the world together; spending most of that time in the Middle East. “We lived in Jordan, Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia.” They raised two children as expatriates, which in case you didn’t know are people who reside in a country other than their own. Liz did it for 15 years, but by the time they’ll kids were teenagers she and Declan felt it was time to go home and be with family.
Home however was different now. Everyone had grown up. Mom and Dad were gone “way too early.” Liz is number five of eleven children and was used to making peace between the siblings. Her brother, the doctor was the oldest, and he like to make war at times. “He was the Colonel and loved to order us around.” Would that make Liz the sergeant? If so she is certainly not like the boot camp, screaming in your face kind. In fact, she is an inviting, hospitable, gentle, and kind woman who just so happens to be a great listener, and a wonderful storyteller like my Irish father-in-law.
After settling them in Ireland, Liz and Declan has to go back to Saudi Arabia to finish out their last of their jobs. Not long afterwards twenty terrorists hijacked four US airplanes and changed the world forever. Liz and her husband eventually got out of their contracts and headed home.
Later Liz would become a “mature student,” returning to university a few years ago to study chemical biology. She worked in that field for a couple of years after receiving her diploma. Before her brother’s health began to decline. Being who she is, and knowing how important family is, Liz and Declan put their jobs on hiatus, and came over to care for the doctor who had no one else to care for him. And now they are finishing the last of it, taking care of his estate.
Liz liked the idea of meeting strangers and completely obliged to partake in the challenge (with the exception having her picture taken). “There are a lot of peace-makers out there, and you have to keep going because the world needs you.”
As I walked home with a vintage brown leather jacket that I wasn't sure was for men or women, I thought about what Liz had to say. We got to keep on going, taking care of those we love and those we don’t even know. “It’s probably the best way to heal the brokenness that has infected us all.” I couldn’t agree more. Free advice. And a free jacket. It was a good day.