Later, All The Sons Come Home
The Huntsville Times
OK. so my
good friend, Herb, and his two sons go down to Florida every year for
spring training. Big deal. I just know they spend the whole week arguing
about politics: or the younger kid's new house with the flat roof that
collects water better than the LA Reservoir. ("Four years of
college at 10K a year and he buys a house with a flat roof. He should
have taken a basic roofing course instead of American Lit.")
pal, Randy, and his kid, they get a guide and go fishing up in Michigan.
Every year. How much fun can that be? Father,. son and total stranger in
a faded mackinaw, huddled around a dying campfire. Picking fish bones
out of their plate and wishing there was a McDonald's around the curve
of the stream. Randy, just dying to make some constructive comments
about the kid's wife -- but the guide, who's spitting tobacco in the
fire, likes to stay up all night and tell stories about really
successful fishing trips - not like this one. "You shoulda been
here in the Summer of '92 -- Gee Golly!" Well, me and my kids don't
shiver around campfires or watch a bunch of out-of-shape jocks
frolicking under a Florida sun. But we're plenty close. Don't we spend
hours on the phone talking about their sister -- my daughter - who only
remembers my birthday if I sic my granddaughter on her.
Me and the
boys are pretty close. We talk about stuff like that all the time.
sons. Just like any. relationship, there's a duality involved -- the
real and the dream world. In the boys' eyes there are two fathers:
FATHER, the idealized icon, King Lear, Arthur of Camelot, Moses the
Lawgiver, Alexander of Macedon. Then there's Pop, who thinks it's 1960
and a five-dollar bill buys supper and a movie for two. Pop, the
champion sleeper who dozes off in the living room recliner. He'd be in
the Olympics if there was an early to bed category.
Dad is the
large male adult in the house whose personal philosophy and worldview
are wrapped around economic survival and a synchromatic release of the
five-speed clutch in the family Honda. He hates that stone-on-blackboard
sound, coming out of the garage when Junior misses reverse gear. And he
wonders if this cub will ever learn to hunt alone. He's full of faults.
He can't even let the clutch out on that Honda without shaking the guts
out of the engine. ("Does he realize a new clutch is a $500
sons, like wolf cubs, can't wait to leave the den. There's a neat
parable about a family who lives happily in a modest cabin surrounded by
a thick, pathless woods. Beyond the woods is a bright meadow with a
stream bordered by wild plum trees.
knows that sooner or later the son -- energized by an impulse to explore
the woods -- will leave the bosom of his family. Ah, but that woods.
Dark, frightening, full of brambles. The boy will never find his way
back to the cabin once his restless heart is satisfied. "When you
leave," said the father, "you must mark your trail because
someday you'll want to return. Don't forget."
replied the confident youth. "But why do you always think me a
half-grown fool who can't even find his way home and why do you assume
I'll return? The people out there (and he gestured beyond the cabin
walls) will think me wise and beautiful. You'll see."
this conversation, the boy left. Early in the morning he stole out of
his bedroom window and stepped into the impenetrable forest and brashly
rushed through the woods in his eagerness for freedom. At a safe
distance followed the father, diligently marking the trail from home to
the edge of the woods. Then with a long look at his sun briskly striding
over the meadow, the father returned home.
later, the youth returned full of wondrous tales of the woods and the
world beyond. "And did you have any trouble finding your way back
to us?" asked the father. "None whatsoever," replied the
son. "The trail is clearly marked."
the legend. It's not a bad moral. They all come home sooner or later.
But you must mark the trail.