His sister Margo, more than anything else, wanted to tell him how she felt about Nam, but he knew where she stood from the peace buttons she wore. The whole time Jack wished he were back in Vientiane, where over a good meal, he could complain to his buddies about the dangers on the ground and in the air. But then this was not the Jack his family knew. It wasn’t the Jack of Richmond, the boy who ran away. As his buddies knew, he complained about everything, just loved to complain. He had that right, as long as he avoided strangers, particularly journalist or anyone who could blow his cover.
Attached to the embassy, they were all there to develop and save Laos. Inside the embassy or outside it, the goals were the same; but the risks were not the same. They varied; and so was the length of time people stayed in the country. Those who wore Rolex and Secko watches and gold heavy chains usually stayed longer than military personal.
Meanwhile, Jack never apologized. He accepted the fact that he lived in a world in which human life was cheap. He still missed his wife. He never saw his daughter. He and his wife had been an unlikely couple, an American and a Philippine revolutionary. Their love transcended ideology. Margo couldn’t have understood this.
His mother didn’t want to talk right them. All that mattered to her was that both of her kids were finally home, and she didn’t want to say anything to spoil it. Her husband had considered Richmond the perfect place to raise a family and never considered himself stuck. If Jack hadn’t run off, he probably would’ve shared the same feelings.
The Indiana Jack remembered was Indiana before the monotony of the interstate, when US 40 was two lanes, went through towns, and up and down hills. He didn’t think the same as his father, nor had he his mechanical ability. At least his father had a place where he belonged, and no one could deny him that. People could tell where he was from by the way he talked. Surprisingly, both were romantics, both had the Philippines in common and both had strong patriotic sentiments. The spitting image of his father, hardly, but Jack wondered about what all they shared. Or if his father hadn’t been given a chance, would he also have been wayward? Jack felt regret and sorrow when he least expected it. Did he love his old man, who once wielded a stick with the vengeance of a despot?
So much feeling came, came as a shock, culminating with more tears…real tears. For once, principles didn’t matter. Tears seemed to erase the pain, as words came slowly. Short phrases…about the body…questions about dad…consoling…remembering…paying tribute, with everyone talking at once. “A friend’s soul has ascended into heaven. Nothing we know stood in the way.”
The purpose of the service was not only to console but also to instruct. But to the siblings, the service sounded familiar and too much like a sermon. They had heard it all before. None of it consoled them. They placed their father in the finest hardwood casket, decorated it with the Tree of Life, a forgiveness symbol. It illustrated affection. Nothing else would’ve satisfied their mother.
Now the family followed a pattern of covering over their doubts and frustration. They gave the appearance of harmony and greeted each other with hugs and kisses. Friends brought food to the home, casseroles and pies, etc. It also was important that they drop by and pay their respects. Jack’s tendency was to run and hide, which for once was impossible. As he listened to others talk about his father, Jack remembered the scripture that referred to heaven having many mansions. If that were true, he thought, there surely was a gas station up there for his father to run, which brought a smile on Jack’s face.