At this (see previous post) the son’s ears perked up. He had often seen his father downcast, gazing wistfully into the west, but never with such conspicuous tears welling up in his eyes. The son’s longing to know about his heritage has finally broken the dam to his father’s heart, and the floodgates—the stories of good old days—are about to open.
As the father begins to speak, the elder brother saunters into their arena. He has been tending the fields all day, and he smells of sweat and a hard day’s work. Without saying a word, he throws his basket down at his father’s feet, and the day’s harvest, a meager portion of bitter herbs, spills out onto the ground.
He smirks at his little brother, who’s sitting at his father’s feet, anxiously waiting for him to resume the story. Ever since that kid was born, he’s been relegated to second best. So what if he doesn’t hang on every word his father says? There’s work to be done, and as the elder, he does more than his share. Since when was wistfulness valued above utility? With the way the crops have been lately, there needs to be less talking and more plowing.
"I was just about to tell your brother about your homeland. Care to join us?" his father says, interrupting the awkward silence.
Homeland? The elder brother just shakes his head. He can’t believe his father had the audacity to completely ignore the weak batch of crops set before him. Has he lost his mind? He really must be getting old if he can’t see that their livelihood now is more important than fantasizing about some far-off wonderland.
"I think I’ll pass, father. I’ll go see if mother can make something of these despicable roots."
With much huffing and puffing, he gathers the herbs and tromps off into the distance toward the thin grove of trees where they make their temporary home.
The father lets out a sigh. He’s sad that his eldest son can’t use the eyes of his heart to see beyond the arid western hills, but as a farmer, he knows there’s no use trying to cultivate a plant where the soil is hard as rock.
"Well, son, I guess it’s just you and me," he says.
The son nods knowingly. He too wants his brother to stay and hear, to understand what life was like before the Great Exile. But his brother had never been one for stories. Funny, he is always worried about making a living, but he’s never truly lived at all.
All thoughts of the bitter elder brother dissipate as his father begins to speak again.
"Well, you know about the day I woke up and began to breathe. You’ve heard about how your mother was provided for me, and how I was called upon by God to take charge of our whole estate. You’ve seen with your imagination the land beyond the western hills, the beautiful greens of the trees in our garden, the sweet fruit and the fresh springs of water that flowed as clear as the blue sky on a summer day and as quickly as the gazelle across the grassland. You know about how we walked elbow to elbow with God, how he professed his love for us and regaled us with stories of eternity past and shared with us his desires for our future.
"But what you don’t know, Abel, my son, is how we lost this paradise of ours, and why we won’t be able to get it back, at least not in this life."