family dynamics in th absence of the prodigal

Posted: April 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

“One of these days, he’ll need something.”  I was at the counter, peeling potatoes and trying not to cry.  I could calm my facial expressions.  I could choke down the sobs that threatened to come if I just breathed slowly, carefully.  What I couldn’t do was stop the tears.  No matter how I strained to hold them in, they slid down my cheeks and off my chin.  I swiped angrily at them with the backs of my hands.  I didn’t want to cry anymore!

And here was my husband, quietly standing behind me, pulling me against him.  I was stiff, drawing a ragged breath and trying not to fall apart as he kissed me tenderly, tenderly kissing away those stubborn tears.  “Don’t cry, Mother.  The boy will be back.  Just you wait and see.  One of these days, he’ll run out of cash, and he’ll be back.  You haven’t seen the last of him.”

But would he?  Our younger son had been away for months, running through his half of the family inheritance.  We heard third-hand reports of his exploits in a far-off city.  But never any contact from him.  Each time another story came our way, it was worse than the last.  The drinking, the drugs, the women.  His scrapes with law enforcement. 

Would he survive, or would he accidentally end his own life some night amidst the debauchery, or maybe get killed in a bar fight?

Would I ever see my son again?  A cry escaped me at that question, asked over and over again inside of me ever since he had packed up and left for the city. 

As my husband held me tighter, I heard the door swing shut.  I hadn’t heard it open!  And there was our older son, stalking across the yard, his hands balled into fists and his shoulders clenched in a knot. 

My husband’s sigh in my ear told me he had seen as well.  The poor boy.  Our grief over the loss of his brother was an affront to him.  He never said so, but we both saw how he bristled at our tears, at our quiet talks together about our missing son.  He wore resentment perpetually in the set of his shoulders, in the tone of his voice, in the way he never wondered aloud, as we did, whether his brother was okay and whether he might ever return home. 

We had already lost one son to the great wide world and its siren song.  Would we now lose the other to resentment? 

But I didn’t know how to make all of this easier to him, my eldest son, who had always found everything he wanted right here on our own little acreage.  The son who hadn’t been pulled by the wild song of an unknown journey, calling him away from ordinary farm life. 

And every day, my heart inquired:  would our youngest come to his senses and return to us, or was he forever lost to his new lifestyle?


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