The lunch was French, at a creperie which supplies our little town's sole Gallic note. I am the world's fastest eater, which is all wrong, I know -- you're supposed to take an hour to consume half a sandwich, and focus intently on each miniscule bite. I don't do that. I just inhale.
But I'm happy to linger over my iced tea for a while and talk, especially on a hot summer day after church. Topics drifted lazily in and out of the conversation: the war, past wars, military service, the draft, adult children. Disability and illness. Recent surgeries. Old travels. Deceased parents. The next rector of Trinity, Princeton. Deliverance from cigarette smoking.
This was part of a larger segment of our conversation about addiction. As I listened, I realized that this conversation has changed profoundly among us. Not long ago, it would have been brief: He has a drug problem, someone would have said, and everyone at the table would looked down at his or her plate, muttered something sympathetic and moved on. There would have been not much to say and it would have been rude to say it. In truth, it probably would not have come up at all, not at a lunch mixing new and old friends. It would have been much too private.
That coyness, born of shame, helped no one. And this was different. A young man's courage in recovery from drug addiction was reported by his dad with pride; we were all proud of him, too, and we don't even know him. We talked of the young man's new friends, as hip as his old ones were but dedicated, now, to helping him stay sober instead of helping him get high. Dedicated, because they count on him to do the same for them.
This my son was lost and now is found, I said, as much to myself as to anyone else. I am not sure if anyone else heard me. He was dead, and is now alive.
Stories like this used to be uniformly tragic -- a young man went wrong and was never heard from again. His parents, unable to speak of him, dreading the moment at dinner when people start to talk about their children. And in a while, sometimes, a funeral no parent should ever have to attend. This is still true, sometimes, of course; the demon of addiction doesn't surrender easily, and sometimes it wins the battle for mind and body.
But it never wins the battle for the soul. God wins that one. This is true no matter how bad it got, up to and including the moment of death. There are those who cannot be well here, who cannot become themselves here. Only when they leave us can they finally be free. Why this is, we do not know, but sometimes we see it dimly, through a scrim of tears. It helps a bit, sometimes. And sometimes it does not.
What a lovely lunch, I said as we took our leave of each other. Indeed, my gallette provencal was very good. But it wasn't the best part.
The Buon Viaggio Potluck is this Saturday at 2pm -- but don't feel you must come on time. And leave whenever you wish. Just please don't come without letting us know! Thanks to those who have already responded. If you intend to offer a performance of some kind, be in touch with director Mark D'Allessio, email@example.com. With concerns about what food to bring, email Katherine Young at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the HodgePodge at www.geraniumfarm.org, where Debbie has posted the what-to-bring key.
If you are coming from New York, take either the 1:14 NJ Transit train from Penn Station on the Northeast Corridor line to Metuchen, or the 1:58. Both of these trains will be met at the Metuchen station. If you take a later train, please call 732-762-1767 to be met. Should you wind up taking a taxi, they are right across from the train station as you alight, and you can tell the driver to take you to St. Luke's at Oak Avenue and Rt. 27. Or you can walk from the station -- it's ten minutes, down Main Street and right on Rt 27, for one long block.