Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hephaestus, the Prodigal Son, and You and Me

The other day we were sitting in the Community Bookstore for a book reading. The author of the graphic novel in question was teaching the kids to draw pictures of the the god Apollo. Sitting on my lap, number two asked the author if he had any plans to write a graphic novel about Hephaestus, her favorite Olympian god.  The room was filled with kids, drawing, asking questions, and making observations about this quirky extended family of gods.  Most of us are drawn to these stories because we see a piece of ourselves in these stories of sibling rivalries, adultery, jealousy, and redemption.  Zeus the father of the bunch famously hurled Hephaestus during a spat in which the boy sided with his mother, Hera, injuring the eventual of craft and metalwork.  Throughout his life, he learned to cope with his injury, becoming an artist. Rather than the linear, polished, albeit mean spirited Apollo, number two is drawn to Hephaestus’ story of exile and return, resilience and repair. 

The whole weekend felt like that. We attended a funeral on Saturday for a husband of Caroline’s mom, who she knew a half century prior, bringing her mother out of the wreckage of post war  Europe back to the US.  Once back here, she went her own way, leaving her son and father to cope.  This son stood to tell this story on Saturday.  Yet, unlike most eulogies, this one felt honest.  We all listening spellbound as he talked about the sweetness and the sour of five decades of knowing his father, reeling through time, between wars, connections and separations, running away from trouble in the Lower East Side in the 1970’s to reconnect with his father, only to be exiled anew after a short year or two. They did not talk much for two decades.  And then letters started.  And a correspondence grew.  The two traveled and forgave each other, lost each other, and found something else.  Decade by decade he talked, comparing his misconnections with his father to the story of the Prodigal Son, who reconnected with his father after a similar exile and was embraced anew, his life and narrative overlapping with biblical tale. 

Looking at him, I felt incredibly moved, this son exiled and injured, who made a life for himself like Hephaestus.  Hopefully, we can all find the kind of acceptance he once found.  Sometimes that’s all we need. Looking at kids growing, its what I thought about all weekend.

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