There was a man who lived a satisfying quaint, upper-middle class suburban life. He was well respected in his city. After all, he provided many jobs through the road sign factory he inherited and expanded. His family roots grew deep beneath the city's infrastructure, undergirding much of the local economy. Owning a government contract facility will do that for a person.
Though successful from all angles, nothing brought this man joy so much as his sons. He had two, both of whom were dearly loved.
The older son was what some might consider "ideal", insofar as a son can be. He worked hard in the family business, and had become a regional manager. For all intents and purposes, it was this older son who would inherit the family business. The younger son was a bit of a miscreant, consumed by his possessions and passions.
One day, this younger son pulled his father aside and asked for his inheritance early. The father was a good man. He understood that ultimately the decision was up to his son (if he didn't spend it now why wouldn't he spend it later?). Though he disagreed with the choice, he granted the son's request. He sold half the company and gave the money to the younger son.
The son immediately packed his bags and left for Las Vegas. The son pilfered his money gambling, partying, and engaging in general debauchery. It worked for a while. In fact, the son had never felt so alive. But such a life is an all-consuming parasite. It gradually sucks away at the life of its host. When his money ran out, the young man's lifestyle destroyed any dignity he might have left.
At his lowest point, the son worked part-time in a local strip club. He was paid to clean the bathrooms. Every cent earned was taken by his bookie to simply pay the interest on his gambling debts. Gracefully, the club owner allowed his employee to take home whatever he found in the dumpster for food. A normal day's food might include maggot infested hamburger and that slimy sliver of chicken that dangles from the middle of the wing bone. The son found himself digging in dumpsters every night to provide his subsistence. On the rare rainy night, the dumpster became a sort of crude Bed and Breakfast.
After living like this for months, sure that his whole town had rejected him, the son decided to go home. He knew that he would not be accepted as a family member. He didn't deserve to be. But he also knew that his father was a good man who had repeatedly given basic work to the lowest in society. He hoped to earn enough to scrape by, for he surely wasn't doing that in his current situation.
Along the journey home, the son wondered what his fate would be. He was all too aware of the fact that he lived in a conservative town that would not accept him as human. Every year there were multiple reports of those dregs of society who were killed for their lifestyle. It was common sport for youth to pummel the homeless mercilessly. The boy had even taken part in these morbid festivities. Nothing was done to stop them. Ironic, the son thought. He could only hope that coming home would destroy just his will, and not his life.
He pondered these thoughts over and over. His imaginative mind churned them over like hands kneading dough. "What will happen to me? Will people recognize me? Maybe if I keep to the back roads nobody will see. That's it, I will walk through the slums. Kids are in school this time of day, they won't be able to catch me. I hope. When is the end of summer vacation? Where will I stay? Surely dad won't want me back. I have to stop calling him that. He's my boss now . . . if I'm lucky. For now I can sleep hidden on the streets. But what about when winter comes? I'll figure that out later. Now I just have to survive. Survive. You have to live to survive. You can't call what I'm doing living. Maybe it would be better if I didn't. What have I done? What will happen to me?" And so he regurgitated horrific thoughts of what the future had for him over again.
The ideas permeated his mind for so long that he hardly noticed he in front of the factory gates. Someone was yelling at him. Running like a fool, yelling. Was he in trouble? For a moment, he thought his life was over. But he recognized the run. That was his dad . . . boss. . . something.
Soon others were exiting the factory, observing the calamity. His father was quickly approaching. The son knew he could not evade his father's gait. The sun reflected brightly across the streaks of tears streaming from the father's eyes.
"My son, my son, your back!"
"How can you call me son? I've made a mockery out of everything you are."
"You're back!" his father replied, gripping his boy tightly in his calloused arms.
"Listen, dad . . . er, sir. I was wondering if you have any work for someone like me."
"You. Are. Back. I knew you would come back."
"But dad, i've screwed up. What about the rest of the city? The gangs? Your Reputation?"
"I will protect you from them. You are my son." The father then turned to some of the factory workers and ordered that they prepare a party for the entire city. They were to create the biggest festival the town had ever seen, and spare no expense. In fact, the father sold the brand new packaging machine the older brother purchased to help defray the expense of the party. The city closed off the streets, and a parade was held in the younger son's honor as he and his father rode together in the new Corvette his father gave him for coming home. The father made his son the vice president of his business.
The older son, returning from a business trip, wondered what caused the traffic slowdown during the parade. He got out of his car, and watched as his father wept over the younger brother and would not let go of him. Noticing a coworker, the older son asked what this was all about. The coworker explained the situation, which infuriated the son. He deserved the parade. He was the good son. He was the one who doubled the size of the company after his brother nearly ruined it. He picked out the packaging machine, wanted the corvette, and spent hours on the road slaving over the father's business. He was supposed to inherit everything. But now his irresponsible brother came back to leech out his father's reserves. How could this be?
After the parade, the father sensed hostility between his sons. He asked the older what the problem was. Of course he was jealous. The entire situation was unfair. The father simply replied, "I know it is unfair. But you have been with me all along. This entire company is yours to benefit from. I don't love you any less. Nothing could make me love you less. Even if it was you who ran off, ruined yourself, and became a distraction, I would love you. I have always loved you.
Your brother is back! Come, celebrate his return"
Are you the grateful son who came to ruin? Or the rich and spoiled one?
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