The Prodigal Son
An unsteady slightly raffish gent was making his way past the folding chairs to the table in front. He seemed very unsure. He said, "I’m nervous" for openers. Then he said he had a job. He was working. Supporting his family, which featured a daughter who was back in school because now she had a "role model."
The site was in Sand City, CA ("All the Good Names Were Taken!") on the Monterey Bay, where a conference of County Veterans Service Officers from throughout the state was taking place. This hour was dedicated to Alcohol and Drug Rehab.
When he left the table after some mild supportive questions and applause, several reached out to shake his hand as he passed. He had a job, you see, was working, a role model. Had been doing it for weeks now. He was one of only 8% from places like the Menlo Park VA Medical Center Drug Rehab Unit to show signs of avoiding the riptide of recidivism.
The parable of the Prodigal Son is sort of confusing to me. It’s the only spiritual message I know of which upholds natural human reflexive sentiment. The one who is lost and then found is celebrated, sometimes at the expense of the one who never strayed. For is it not natural to exult in finding what was gone rather than appreciating what never left? You locate the dropped fiver on the floor of the theatre and think nothing of the
thousands hundreds in your 401(k).
Well, maybe. It probably is not a subject to allow for a definitive answer, but I know a dry drunk, and so do you, who is obviously suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder. She can’t draw enough of it. She will report on her "Recovery" and she has multiple illnesses and injuries, all subjective, and she figures all your day should feature her on the front page above the fold, every day.
I grow weary, even sleepy, and drag my old sad memory back to Blackburn.
He came out of the war and was serving out the rest of his term at Ft Sill, OK, an artillery battalion which went out into the field and fired 105 or 155 howitzers every weekday. This for training, even though Blackburn had done that with live rounds coming and going for a whole year in Vietnam.
In the summer we went out to Camp Eagle to supply site support for national guard training. The site in the Wichita Mountains was pretty, with huge hulking Buffalo everywhere, and you might as I did step outside your tent most any time and observe a silent missle zooming beyond the near trees like a bad dream. It was an artillery range, after all.
So sometimes there would be bomb concussions, and when that happened, Blackburn would need to stand up from his bunk and go outside and see. Just go outside and see. He knew in his mind it was a harmless training exercise going on just like every day, but he had to go outside and see.
He was going home soon, to the hills of West Virginia, and his family farm. He was an affable guy, block-jawed with a farmer’s rakeover comb. Everything ever asked of him he had granted, I felt sure, and he had never given the slightest disappointment to either mother or commanding officer down all his days, and he was going home now, to break ground.
"I can’t believe you never broke no ground, Bowden." He could tell from my accent I was from the country. He was going back home soon. The worst was over with. Another round went off somewhere, and it jolted him alert, and he went outside the tent to see.
I know about the impulse and need to high-five the Prodigal Son, but my own private and most personal praise is reserved for them as never gave a moment of trouble in good and true and loyal service ever; I think of old Blackburn, and hope he is doing well, even though, were there to be a reunion of our battery, I doubt anyone else would even remember his name.