Wednesday, March 27, 2013

He Ain't Heavy

We built the houses out of bricks, removing a brick here and there for a door or window, roofing them over with slabs of flagstone or travertine, always in abundance in a bricklayer’s back yard.

Sometimes we built them in a corner of the garden in the dry earth. We took sand from the sandbox and gravel from the driveway to create paths from house to house. We planted gardens of carrots and radishes and always forgot to water them, so the carrots died and the radishes were hot as peppered sunlight.

Other times we built them on the north side of the house, wedged between the lilac bushes and the weeping mortar in a microclimate where daffodils blossomed and moss covered the bare patches in the grass.

Other times we built them in the abandoned chicken yard, where weeds grew tall enough to hide our little houses in a rainforest of tumbleweeds. Through the forest we carved paths and built a stream, meandering past the houses and under bridges to a little scum-filled lake, where the debris of the village collected.

We built furniture for the occupants – crocheted teddy bears made my Grandma Speirs. We sewed clothing for them out of old socks. Once we made grass skirts for them and left them out overnight and found them the next morning, covered with worms eating the dead grass.

We don’t build those houses any more.

We’re grown up.

Our sister, always in charge, is now Dr. Davidson, teaching at a university.

There’s me. My bears reside on a shelf with my wife’s bears. Rather than build houses out of bricks – and I have some; bricklayers’ sons always do – I write procedures used at a nuclear waste dump.

And our brother. His bear, the oldest, faded from blue to grey and repaired several times by a grandmother long since dead of cancer, sits on a bed in the basement of our mother’s house.

He is in prison.

How life changes.

We think, at the start of it all, that if we build houses of bricks, the Big Bad Wolf will never be able to blow them down. It is a simple lesson. Build strong, and nothing bad can happen.

We built strong.

Oh, there were times – there always are – when we forgot, and in our houses, we built a wall of straw or sticks and invariably the Big Bad Wolf came, blew the wall down, and caused havoc. But we repaired those walls. Sometimes remembered to make them out of bricks.

But still. The Big Bad Wolf always comes back. He never gives up. And because we are at heart the little carefree piglets worried only about today, forgetting yesterday and believing tomorrow will never come, he finds chinks in the bricks and blows in his ill winds.

We built strong.

And our youngest brother is in prison.

He knows why he is there. We have inklings. Never the full story all at once, but glimpses. Pornography and lies about pornography and something about calls to a young girl in Maryland and Victoria’s Secret catalogs and hints and whispers of other things that led his wife to divorce him and to claim full custody of their three children.

That is how I deal with it now. A quick snatch, belched out in one breath, then back to the wooly world of teddy bears in brick houses.

No creature owns [vice] in the first degree,
But thinks his neighbor father gone than he

The words of Alexander Pope, in his Essay on Man.

And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.

The words of Nephi, in 2 Nephi 26.

The road is long
With many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where
Who knows where
But I’m strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.
And the load
Doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

The words of Bobby Scott and Bob Russell.

The prosecuting attorney said, when our brother was sentenced, that he was a manipulator. That he would tell us what he thought we wanted to hear. Because that’s what the addiction does. Or at least that’s what the devil tells him to do.

We all have our vices. The beams in our eyes we must remove before we can see clearly the mote in our neighbor’s eye.

We all have our flaxen cords.

We all have our burdens to bear.

But not alone.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The words of Jesus Christ.

I see the ragged teddy bear on the bed in Mom’s basement. He is worn, tired. Bleached by the years. But ready. Ready to play again. Ready to be loved and to love again.

Just as our older brother tells us. And just as the Big Bad Wolf is loth to hear.

No comments: