Right now, the sky looks like a blue bunch of nothingness. The same way it looked when I was twelve. Back then, I’d lay on top round bales of fescue, looking upward. If I held my head right, I could see all blue—even in the corners of my eyes.
It was enough to disorient you, and make you forget about solid ground.
Daddy died in September. A few days before he passed, I’d spent the day trying to catch crawfish in the creek. And it was during this mundane afternoon that I felt as happy as I’ve ever been. It took forty-eight hours for the whole world to go to hell.
Anyway, so there I was on a hay bale, looking at the sky, still in my funeral clothes. I wore Daddy’s glasses—even though I had no eye trouble. I also wore his oversized sport coat.
My uncle found me laying there.
“What’re you thinking about?” he asked.
I gave no response.
“Hey,” he went on. “You wouldn’t happen to like bears, would’ya?”
“No,” I said, hoping he’d leave. I didn’t need another adult patronizing me, talking about kiddy things, like comic books, cowboys, or grizzly bears.
He dug something out of his pocket. A wooden figurine. It was a carving of a bear. He tossed it to me. “Here,” he said. “Your grandaddy carved that ‘fore he died. It’s maple.”
My grandaddy was an artist. The figurine proved it.
My uncle went on, “He whittled it right after his own daddy died. It’s a symbol of courage, you know. Bears will fight even when they’re bloody and seriously injured.”
“Yep. The bear knows he’s gonna to die sooner or later. Death don’t scare him, so he ain’t got nothing to be afraid of.”
I held the carving in my hands. It was heavier than it looked.
“All that matters to a bear,” he said, “is how hard he fights when things go haywire. Not winning, just the struggle.”
Well, you have no reason to give a feather what I think. But I believe life itself is a battle. It’s ugly, exhausting, and bloody. All over the world, kids get molested, bombs explode, African mothers infected with HIV bury the corpses of their starving babies.
Just yesterday, fifty young folks met their Maker in Orlando because of some fella with a gun. This world keeps getting meaner, the evening news is nothing but a bloodbath now. And nobody on this earth can do a damn thing about it.
Except fight for something good.
I still have that bear.