A happy family lived in a nice town near a big city. The mom, dad, and the two boys were the sort of people you would want next door. On Saturday mornings, they walked on the beach with the dog. On Sundays, they went to church together, came home to a big lunch, and watched football.
The older son was a model student. His grades and SAT scores got him into the prestigious university in the city. He came home on weekends for time with family and church.
The younger son was a likable kid who did not try to match the achievements of his brother. When he reached his senior year in high school, he didn’t fill out college applications. The day after high school graduation, he asked for the money his parents had saved for college. “I need a year to see the world and think about what I want to do with my life.” The boy kept asking all summer. His parents were not happy with the idea, but they finally relented, despite strong objections from older brother. They moved the money to a checking account in the boy’s name. He promptly booked a flight to Paris for the following weekend.
On the trip to the airport, the younger son talked excitedly about his upcoming adventure. His parents were quiet, and his older brother was sullen. At curbside, Mom tried to hide her tears while embracing the boy and reminding him to call home as soon as he landed.
He did not call home that day or week or month. His parents made some ineffective inquiries with friends in Europe, and they were desperate with worry. Finally a post card came from their boy. “Hi Mom and Dad. Lost my phone. Sorry I didn’t write sooner, but having a great time, meeting amazing people, and seeing the world. More later.” The postcard was from Bangkok.
Mom and Dad were relieved somewhat, but their worries grew again as they heard nothing from their boy for the following months.
Their older son continued to thrive in his studies and landed an internship at a large company. He visited Mom and Dad regularly, but he often harped on about the insanity of letting his little brother choose travel over college, and they felt the loss of his respect and love.
A year went by. The older son graduated with honors and took a good position with company where he had been an intern. There was only one more post card from the younger son, this time from L.A. “Hi Mom and Dad. Back in the good old USA. Going to get a job in Hollywood. More later.”
Older brother was disgusted. “Obviously, he wasted all your money. He’s really going to make our family proud, flipping burgers in L.A. He should be getting his degree! I can’t believe you let him do this!”
Another year went by. The older son bought a house and got married to a sophisticated young lady he met at a company party. The wedding was perfect in every way, except for the absence of the younger brother. None of the guests had heard anything from him, and Mom and Dad were sick with worry and fear.
On a Saturday morning in July, Dad took the dog for the walk on the beach. Mom rarely joined them any more. Only the dog was there to see the tears Dad shed while walking and praying for his lost boy.
They neared the north end of the beach. There were some weathered cypress on the hillside just above the dunes, and Dad could see a tent among the trees. “More homeless people every year,” he mumbled to himself.
A gaunt looking man came out of the tent and stumbled down the hill toward them. The dog bounded up, knocked him over, and licked his grimy face and hands mercilessly. Dad rushed to join the puppy pile, weeping and laughing with joy. He grabbed his phone while still hugging the man, speed dialed Mom, and burst out with, “Guess what I found at the beach! Yes! Do that! I don’t care who you invite or what it costs! Our boy is home!”
Mom immediately flurried a huge breakfast, contacted friends and relatives with the news, and called the catering company to order food for a party that night.
They didn’t hear from the older brother until later that morning.”Yes, I got your message. What do you think you’re doing giving him a party! I don’t seem to remember getting a party when I landed this job. No, we’re not coming. I have work to do. You can’t reward him for being an idiot!”
Dad put the phone down slowly and went over to Mom. She had stopped cleaning to listen. He held her hands. “We’re having the party. Our son is found. Now we must find his brother.”