Celebrate Good Things
The loss of something of great value can lead one to despair, but the hope of its eventual recovery can keep you alive when it seems that nothing else matters. I am the father of a wayward son.
Shortly after daybreak, as I have done every day for months, I climbed the stairs to the roof and pulled my bench close to the low wall running around the edge. I started looking where I always look - at the place on the horizon where he disappeared. Though I don't really expect him to come back from that spot, that's where I always start. Nothing.
I scan to the right until I have taken in the full circle of the horizon. The sights where the earth touch the sky are like old friends now - a house with outbuildings, a small grove of olive trees, a meadow where the movement of the sheep there sometimes fool my old eyes, the rock strewn hill, the old fortress... I lean back, my careful scrutiny done, and focus on the middle distance taking in almost a full 180 degrees.
I wait. Every day I wait. Even when I am not here on the roof, I wait. Today, I will spend most of my time here. There is nothing more important to me. As the shadows change, I watch. Morning passes. A servant brings my mid-day meal of bread, dates, and fresh milk. I have much hope, but little expectation.
As I keep watch, I think. I plan. I remember my boy as a young child and weep to think of it. I still see my beloved Sarah’s shining eyes as she presented him to me, his first steps, his silly infant charm, his roughhousing with his big brother, his pretending to work alongside the men, then a fiery youth carrying his own share of the labour. But in my mind, I don't just see pictures of the past. I see the future as clearly as a memory. I see my boy coming back. He will be walking slowly. He will be embarrassed. He always hated to admit it when he was wrong or mistaken.
As he comes to the edge of the barley field, I will get a good view of him and assure myself that the figure pausing there is not some passing stranger. As soon as I know it is him, I will go out to meet him. Sometimes, as I descend the stairs, I pretend to myself that I have seen him and practise taking two steps at a time.
Everything is prepared for his return. A robe hangs ready in hallway. The servants know what it is for. I use it for my most honoured guests. It is the best robe in these parts, very fine, very costly.
In the niche in the wall where I keep my wax tablets and stylus, is a ring. It is engraved with my family's symbol, a barley sheaf with a plow to one side and a sickle on the other.
When he wears the robe he may feel like a guest, but when I put the ring on his finger, he'll know he's still part of the family. He'll know he's home.
There is a fat calf penned nearby for the feast. There is wine laid away - sour, by now, of course - but mixed with honey and water, I'd serve it to the king. There will be music and singing and dancing and stories.
Yes, everything is ready for his return. All we need to begin the celebration is the boy himself. That's why I'm up here on the roof today keeping watch. That's why you'll know where to find me every day until he finds his way home.