The Profound Pontifications

of Brother John Deacon

By James C. “Chris” Williams IV

Masonry In Spite of Mona

 

Almost the whole month had gone by and I realized I hadn’t heard from his largeness, aka, my Brother John. It was almost lunch time on a Friday and I was thinking that it was going to be a real problem if I didn’t get to experience the profundity of his wisdom and knowledge. Nahhh, not really. It would mean I would have to make something up and I surely don’t think all of you want to read something I made up. So, I called his cell phone and after ringing ten times Mrs. Deacon answered. I thought it was strange that he wasn’t out on the road somewhere. I asked where the great one was and she told me that he was in the hospital which scared the heck out of me. Without calmly finding out what was wrong, I just assumed (we all know what happens when you assume) that it was bad and asked for the name of the hospital and the room number and hung up.

Being a Friday afternoon, we were just winding down for the week and just had a few cars needing to be picked up by customers so I asked Leonard if I could get out a little early to go visit John in the hospital. He wanted to know what was wrong with John and all I could do is just stand there with a dumb look on my face and say “I don’t know.” He said at his age it’s probably not good so get out of here and call us and let us know. I knew I had a long drive ahead of me but getting out at noon would put me at the hospital in plenty of time for visitors. I drove as fast as I dared and pulled up in front of the hospital right at five o’clock. It wasn’t a big hospital but I ended up having to ask for directions anyway.

They had him ensconced in a room on the second floor, way back in the corner (big surprise). I could hear his booming voice long before I got to his door. It sounded like he was complaining about something (another big surprise). As I got to the doorway, I saw Mrs. Deacon give him a kiss on the cheek and tell him to behave himself. She looked up and saw me, came over and smiled and gave me a hug and said, “I am glad you are here. I have to run some errands. You can deal with the grouch for a while.”  I promised I would get him under control to which she gave me a little smirk on her way out the door.

As I stepped into the room a nurse flew by me and blocked my way and snarled. “Only immediate family is allowed in here.” Before I could reply John said, “He’s OK, he’s my Brother.” She walked up to me and I could see the little badge around her neck that said “Hi, my name is Mona, I am here to give you the best care anywhere.”  And while I was contemplating that, she looked me up and down with a stern stare and said. “You don’t look a bit like him.” With no time to think I quickly replied, “We had different Mothers.” She continued her inspection and walked out of the room mumbling something about “that’s what they all say.” 

I shook my head to clear it and walked over to John’s bed and asked him what he was in for. He said that they were going to do a knee replacement the next day. I was stunned.  I said with a trace of sarcasm in my voice, “I drove all the way up here, worried about you and all that’s wrong is the bum knee you have had forever?” “My wife told me you hung up before she could tell you what was going on,” he shot back.  “It’s not my fault you came all the way up here.” “Heck, you could have called me back,” I said. “I told her not to call you back,” he replied. “I am glad you came because otherwise we couldn’t have talked this month and you would have just had to make something up.” Hmmmm, I thought. That’s a little freaky and way too clairvoyant for me…… but he was right. So I settled down in the recliner next to his bed and asked, “So what is your major problem? I could hear you complaining about something when I stepped out of the elevator way down the hall. You know they will just throw you out of here if you keep it up and Nurse Mona looks like she could do just that.”

“Brother Chris,” John complained. “It’s the food. It’s terrible and there’s not near enough of it and Nurse Mona doesn’t seem to care. I see her and my wife talking in the hall whispering to each other and looking at me. I think they are doing this to me on purpose. I am about to pass out from hunger.” “Ok, OK John,” I said as soothingly as I could, I will go and get you a big hamburger or something and smuggle it into the hospital. Would that make you happy?” John’s voice got real low and he looked from side to side like he thought the room might be bugged and whispered, “I have got it handled. We should have some more company in a few minutes.”

No sooner than he had uttered those words that four guys walked into the room. One had a bouquet of flowers and one had a card and the other two were carrying a very large box that had a big bow on it. Before anyone could say anything, Nurse Mona appeared in the doorway and announced that only immediate family could be in the room to which John told her that all four were his Brothers. She said “No way” and proceeded to study each of their faces one by one. They were all frozen in place and obviously afraid to move. She was pretty intimidating. Finally, she turned to John and said, “Mr. Deacon I see no family resemblance in any of these men.” The one holding the flowers said, “That’s because….. and before he could finish, she turned on him and cut him off …. “You’d better not say that you all had different Mothers.” We all just stood there like statues, all of us afraid to speak. All of a sudden Mona threw up her hands and said, “Just be warned that visiting hours are over at Eight O’clock and anyone who is left I will throw out.”

I don’t know about the other fellers but I surely believed her and made a note to myself to be long gone by eight. As she was leaving, John called out to her and asked if she would shut the door because we had some important family business to discuss. She whirled around in the doorway and gave all of us a withering stare which spoke volumes about what she was thinking right then and she backed out slowly closing the door as she did. 

“Holy Maloney, John,” I said. “That lady is all business.”  “You darn tootin’ she is,” he hurriedly replied. “We don’t have much time. Brother Chris these are my Brothers Harold, Lloyd, Vester, and Bob. Brothers this is my Brother Chris from San Antonio. We shook hands all around and Bob said, “So this is who you tell all them stories to and everyone thinks you are so durn smart and such. Brother Chris, you and me need to talk sometime.”

“We don’t have time for that,” John interrupted as I nodded in agreement with Bob. “Let’s get to it.  Brother Harold, you see that the door is properly tiled.” Brother Harold replied, “Yes Wor…. I mean OK John.” He put a chair in front of the door and sat down.  While I stood there with my mouth hanging open in shock, the big box was opened a big plastic bag was untied and I watched as more food was pulled out than I thought could possibly fit in that box.

No wonder it took two to carry. There was chicken of every kind and description. There was Fried Chicken, Baked Chicken, Chicken Tenders, and even gizzards and livers, which I can do without, but the rest of them seemed to like them a lot. Next came out a pot of Chicken and Dumplings which made my mouth water uncontrollably.  Then they hauled out about 10 ears of corn on the cob and a bowl of fried Okra which I reached for right away. Heck they even had two loaves of homemade bread. I remarked that the only thing missing was something to wash it all down which got me a sideways glance and a shake of the head by Brother Vester as he pulled out a gallon of Tea and a gallon of Lemonade and cups for everyone.

We were all digging in when John seemed to remember something and turned and called out across the room, “Mr. Jackson? Are you awake over there?” It was then I realized that this was a two – patient room and there was a long curtain separating the two beds. “Hell yes I am awake,” growled the voice from the other side of the curtain. “How could anybody sleep with all that racket going on over there?” “Well I am sorry about that,” John replied apologetically. “Are you hungry?” “It’s about time,” he growled again. “I thought you’d never ask. I was just about to push my panic button and have Nurse Mona break up your party. But you just bought my silence. Now pull this durn curtain out of the way and let me have some real food. I have been in here four days and I can’t take it any more either.”

We all ate fast and in total silence savoring all the wonderful tasting homemade food. The only family business that was discussed throughout the meal was that everyone needed to go to dinner at Brother Lloyd’s house some night because it was his wife that had make most of the food. I can tell you dear readers it was a meal that I would drive five hours to have anytime. While the Brothers were cleaning up the mess that we made, Brother Harold opened the window to let the smell dissipate. Mr. Jackson broke the silence saying, “You know that it’s not going to take Nurse Mona long to figure out your little game. “Whatever do you mean Mr. Jackson,” John asked with an innocent look on his face. “I am just saying that she will figure out that you all are Masonic Brothers at some point and she won’t be happy. She is a by the book person.”

“How did you figure it out,” John asked? “It really wasn’t that hard,” he replied. “My Father was a Mason.  Anyway, thanks for the dinner. Now pull that curtain and let me sleep.” John’s food posse said their goodbyes and told John they would check on him after his surgery and left. I looked up at the clock and it was already close to seven o’clock. I had to drive back that same night so I needed to extract any wisdom of any kind worth using in my column in less than an hour. 

I sure didn’t want to be here when Mona came back. I said in a low voice nodding towards the curtain that separated John’s bed with Mr. Jackson’s, “Do you have anything you want me to tell the Brothers who read the Newsletter?” He pondered a moment before replying and then said, “Don’t worry about talking low. What I have to say can be said in front of anyone.” A low growl came from the other side of the curtain, “I would just as soon you keep it low. I’m trying to sleep.” John lowered his voice to just above a whisper and said, “Brother Chris when did you decide to become a Mason?” “Oh my gosh,” I thought to myself. “I am waiting to hear something profound and important and he’s asking personal questions.” And aloud, “I was initiated in 1984 John so it must have been sometime before that. But what does that have to do with anything?” “No,” he said. “When did you decide to be – come a Mason?” “Come on John,” I asked. “What do you want me to say? I was Raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason in 1985. I guess I became a Mason then, right?”

“No My Brother, you are not getting what I am asking,” he said as he frowned at me. “Then I am confused John. You need to unconfused me.” “Me too,” chimed in the voice on the other side of the curtain. John and I looked at each other and then at the curtain. Then he shrugged and said, “Brother Chris, people are always asking me when I became a Mason and I have always answered like you did and then the other day it hit me like a lightning bolt right between the eyes.” And as he said it he gave this dramatic demonstration of his idea of a lightning bolt hitting him right between the eyes.

“John,” I said hurriedly as I looked at the clock, we don’t have much time. You need to not be so dramatic and get to the point.” ‘He’s right,” echoed Jackson from next door. You are giving me a headache. Get to it man.” “OK, OK here it is,” he said with an exasperated tone, glancing at the curtain as he spoke. “When you were initiated, you were “made” a Mason. When you were Raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason you were told that you were entitled to all the “rights and benefits” of a Master Mason, but nowhere in any of your Degrees or your memory work did anyone tell you or did you read that you had “become” a Mason. You know why? Because you hadn’t. Just because a man is Initiated, Passed, and Raised does not mean he has “become” a Mason. Finishing the Degrees does not mean that instantaneously a Brother has become the man that our Principals and Teachings can make him.

There are many, many Brothers out there that have never made the decision to “become” a Mason. Oh, sure, they had to be good men, of good character to even be considered for membership into our gentle Brotherhood, but “becoming” a Mason takes time, and study, and reflection, and lots and lots of hard work. No wonder that it is said that Masonry is a “Way of Life” because for most Brothers it becomes your life and is a lifetime work in progress. Given the proper amount of time and thought it becomes a part of everything you say and do …. of every decision you make and every life you touch. It inspires you to do things you never thought you could do. But just because you carry a membership card doesn’t …. and I repeat, doesn’t mean you have become a Mason. 

“I think I understand what you are saying John,” I said hoping I wasn’t disturbing Mr. Jackson. “It is pretty easy to spot each of those Brothers who have “become” a Mason. There aren’t that many of them though.” “Yup, Brother Chris,” he said, “but there are many, many more Brothers out there who have made the conscious decision to begin the work necessary to “become” a Mason. All Masons are good men, but there are those who you just know that have “become” everything that Masonry is about. They have not an unkind word or thought, but always a thoughtful smile and a warm handshake. A Brother who you know immediately would do anything for you and who you could trust with your life. They are men who go about their lives doing good things for others without fanfare or recognition. Too many Brothers walk around with a membership card in their wallets and think that means they have “become” a Mason, but I can tell you that they are wrong in their thinking. There is a difference in being a good man and “becoming” a Mason. Now do you know what I am talking about?”

Before I could answer a sad sounding voice from the other side of the curtain said, “Well I sure do.  You make a very good point. I happen to be one of those card-carrying Brothers. I never made that decision to “become” a Mason.” John and I just stared at each other not saying anything. I could imagine Mr. … err… apparently Brother Jackson lying there staring at the ceiling absorbing John’s words. The silence was finally broken by John who asked, “Why didn’t you say you were a Mason before?” I heard the Brother take a deep breath and blow it out, and then he said, “Well I guess I was a little ashamed. Not ashamed to be Mason but ashamed that I never learned how to be a true Mason. My Lodge Brothers were all good men I am sure, but I never felt like I was one of them and it was easier to not go to Lodge than to make a place for myself there. I figured that I was a Master Mason so I was as much a Mason as any of them but just now I sadly realize that I never was.” Then I heard him chuckle and say, “Brothers, I stopped believing in coincidences long ago and I believe that somehow I was supposed to be right here tonight to hear what you said. Thank you for saying it and ….. thanks for the dinner. Now be quiet and let me sleep.”

John and I just stared at each other with a dumb look on our faces. “So, Brother Chris,” said John “Did I give you something to pass on to the Brothers?” All I could do is shake my head and smile. “John,” I said. “You surely did and I will tell you what I think.  I think you “became” a Mason a long time ago.” “I am not so sure about that, Brother Chris,” he said seriously.  “But I appreciate you saying it. I just hope that when the Supreme Architect calls me home, he won’t be disappointed in me.”

All of a sudden the door burst open and there she was….. Nurse … Mona, and she had one of those “HA, I caught you” looks on her face. She looked around the room and seemed disappointed that the other Brothers were already gone and then her eyes settled on me. I glanced at the clock and realized I was on her time. I could feel my hair prickling on the back of my neck as I stammered in a weak voice, “I was just leaving.” “You sure are,” she growled. “It’s eight o’clock. Say your good – byes and get out. I’ll be waiting outside.” Well I just stood there frozen for a few seconds and I realized that my knees were shaking. “Boy she scares the crap out of me,” I said. “I am sure glad I am not in here.” “Thanks a lot,” John whined. “You’d really go and leave a Brother behind knowing how she is?”  “I feel confident that you and Brother Jackson can take her no problem,” I said not really meaning it. “Don’t count on it”, Came the voice from beyond the curtain and I realized I needed to get while the getting was good.

 I said, “OK John, I gotta go now.” “Here take this box with you,” he said quickly. “No John,” I said. “What if she smells it. She will surely kick my rear end all over the place.” “Better you than me,” he shot back. “Now go!” I grabbed the box and did what my Dad told me a long time ago to do in a tight situation. I kept a stiff upper lip and a puckered rear ….  and stepped out into the hall. Oh yes, she was waiting for me all right. I said a little prayer and ended with a whispered “So Mote It Be” that I could get by Nurse Mona with this big box of food trash with my hide still intact….  and boldly started for the elevator.

Then out of nowhere something devious popped into my mind and I thought, “What the heck” and changed my course to pass close by where she was standing with her hands on her hips her eyes shooting daggers at me. As I went past her I leaned in and whispered in her ear that John had told me that he thought she was a real cute. Boy… she reacted as if she had been slapped. As I got on the elevator she was still standing in the same spot with a stunned look on her face. I must have laughed half the way home. I made a mental note to myself not to answer any calls from John for a couple of weeks. He was going to need time to cool off. I hope to talk to you all next month. Have a good one.