A cell phone ring in the middle of a still forest is like a bolt of lightening hitting the ground. I slip the cell phone out of my parka pocket and see that it’s my brother, Sam. Technology invading earth.
“I thought you were at work.” I said to him. The air in the forest is cold. Four days of gentle rain has left the trail muddy. S.M. will want my hiking shoes hosed off before I walk into the house.
“I am. Chavez is in a meeting.”
“Ah, so the boss is out, and you’re goofing off.” Sam, I thought, could never be serious. But, out of the whole family, he and I are close. We share common ground.
“Well, I know you aren’t much for talking on the phone long.” Sam says. “So I will get right to the point. I asked Mom what she wanted for Christmas.”
“Oh.” Innocuous question.
“She wants me to go to church with her. She even turned my new cell phone number over to the Mormon church. I’ve been getting calls from them three to four times a day. So I blocked their number.” He sounds upset.
I can hear voices in the background of his phone call of people answering the phones. Sam works at a call center. He sometimes even works the holidays just to get out of family gatherings. “Tell her no.”
“I tried. She just got more upset.” Sam says. “I think she misses Eva.”
“Everyone misses Eva.” I confirm. “I miss Eva, but that doesn’t matter right now.” She still emails me and we’re Facebook friends, but since Sam isn’t on Facebook, I don’t need to defend my friendships.
“So it’s my fault?” Sam’s voice rises and lowers again. “Look, I’ve got to go. Chavez is returning and if I’m not answering phone calls about bank balances, and !@$# like that, I’ll get another write up.”
“Will I see you at Christmas?” I speak quickly.
“I already asked to work Christmas Day.” Sam sighs. “Eva has me paying up the !@#$ in spousal support.” He ends the call.
His foul words distress me. He never used to drop word bombs like that as if it’s common language. I drop the cell phone back into my pocket. Birds twitter, flying from branch to branch, and I take in a deep breath. I’m two miles from the house on one of the back trails, and the peace I felt now is gone. A squirrel zips up a pine tree. Even in the Garden of Eden, family drama floats to the surface like slime in a still pond.
It’s not about church. It’s not about his dislike for anything related to Mormonism or Christianity, but a deep hurt that he runs from. I can see it. Sam is angry at God because his marriage failed. He’s hurting because someone in religious authority lied. He wants answers, but his research into our family religion has left him empty and restless. I kneel down on the trail, bow my head and pray:
“Lord, please rip the scales from his eyes and heal Sam’s heart.” In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.