Of Brothers and Buildings

My brother is a builder, which means he crafts beauty from raw materials like wood and screws and nails and insulation. I am firmly convinced that, given enough time, he could build anything you could possibly want, like a second story on your home or a deck that would make all your neighbors jealous. He specializes in renovating homes and has steadily built up a clientele so that he is always in demand from someone or another.

When I was forty-five, I tried to kill myself. The details are unimportant, but the fact that I did not succeed is somewhat more pertinent to this story. When I was released from the hospital, feeling fragile and empty like a blown-out egg at Easter (minus the decorative embellishment) my brother put everything on hold in his life and flew to my side. We spent many late nights talking together, examining the wherefores of my breakdown, and he, as a man of action and perpetual motion, decided what to do. Although my house had plenty of space for my family, my own desk was crammed into a corner of my bedroom, a noisy and often-interrupted carved-out space…an afterthought. Though he could not give me one of the two requirements that Woolf maintained a woman needed to write fiction—money—he could give me the room of my own.

And so work began. We chose the spot in the back yard and he built concrete pylons for the room to anchor to against the sometimes violent Oklahoma wind. Slowly the walls went up, and then the roof. I have many pages of scribbled plans, my brother’s thoughts and figures and lists for Lowe’s and Home Depot. We went to a window outlet and bought a beautiful casement window for one end of the space, along with two standard-edition windows for each of the other sides. It would have just enough room for a built-in desk and cupboards, a sofa, and a chair. No plumbing, but internet.

The finishing touches caused cars to slow down and sometimes stop to gape at the wonder that was my wee house. The gingerbread molding around the roofline reflected my great love of the sea by imitating gentle waves, and a small awning above the door was topped with corrugated steel that shone magical rays upon the roof when the sun shone. He painted it blue-grey with white trim, and I textured the inside walls and colored them ocean blue. The ceiling was white pine imported from Norway, with wainscoting of the same to match. It was a cozy place, a space of solitude and quiet. I strung white fairy lights along the ceiling.

In the short year I had with my wee house, I wrote three novels. They emerged from me like children after long gestations, birthing with a swiftness that left me breathless. I had no idea they were there, just waiting for the space to stretch, swell, and emerge.

My brother is a builder. Sometimes he builds a deck, or renovates a kitchen so that it shines again, or installs a roof. But other times, in the process of putting one board atop another, something magical happens. When he built my wee house, my scattered pieces fit together once more and my mind rested easily within its walls. He wasn’t just crafting a space, he was leaving a testimony to love, a Taj Mahal of brotherly affection—a fraction of the size and twice as beautiful.

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  1. Your brother is a builder of the physical realm. You are a builder of the soul realm. While he creates with wood and nails and insulation, you craft with words and wit, laced with humor and pathos.
    His creation allowed yours to grow and flourish, like the concrete pylons allowed him to build up the wee house.
    Beautiful tribute.

  2. Any thoughts of posting a picture or two of this for those of us who live far enough away from Oklahoma that it’s rather doubtful we’d actually see it in person? Please? 🙂

  3. Well, dang. Your words make me smile so. And it was, by far, the most purpose-driven structure I’ve ever built. Methinks it’s time for a new one!With plumbing!

  4. The hidden liquor cabinet behind the painting on the wall was my favorite part.

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