Summary: Lost in grief following Marie’s death, Ben is jolted out of his despair.
Rating: K+ WC: 871
Blessings in the Balance
I remember that day with both shame and thanksgiving. I made a very important choice. I chose to count my blessings rather than my losses. I would like to say that I did it of my own accord, but unfortunately that was not the case. I’m not certain what the state of the Cartwright family would be were it not for Adam stepping out on faith — trusting the Almighty to guide his words — words that would break my heart, but by the grace of God wrench me out of my despair.
Several weeks had passed since my life turned upside-down — again. The burden of guilt and responsibility — that somehow I could have prevented Marie’s death — feelings that I had felt with Elizabeth and Inger, but this time were overwhelming and unbearable. I can still see her exhilarated smile as she rode into the yard and then all goes black.
I went through the motions of everyday life despite the pall on our household and Joseph being inconsolable. However, after the funeral, it was as though a curtain came down. I found that I could no longer bear to look at my youngest son for all I saw in him was Marie. So I fled, like a coward, because his green eyes, so lost and filled with sadness, crushed my soul. I roamed the Ponderosa by day and sneaked into the house in the middle of the night to grab a few bites of food and fumble through the papers on my desk. At first Adam slept on the settee hoping to catch me, update me on things of importance, and most likely just make sure I was still alive. I drank heavily for it seemed the only balm that kept me from totally losing my mind. Perpetually angry and exhausted, it was impossible to hold a civil conversation. What hell I put him through, what pure and selfish hell! Hop Sing kept food on our table and clean clothes on our backs. I’m sure he offered what consolation he could to the boys, but it was Adam who was running my ranch and caring for his younger brothers — my son who at seventeen should have been focused on his own studies and plans for the future. Instead he was father, brother, and ranch manager for the Cartwright family. May God forgive me.
By sheer grit, stubbornness, and love — love for me, love for his brothers, and love for our land, he managed to do it — much longer than he should have. Then one night, there was a letter on my desk. Sadly, he knew that confronting me face to face would never work. Stoic and proud, yet afraid of facing his own grief, Adam’s only option was to put pen to paper.
I know these past weeks have been awful for you and that you miss Marie terribly. It’s so hard to understand why this happened, especially for Little Joe. You must think of her every time you look at him. It would be impossible not to. It does make me wonder whether you ever felt that way about me or Hoss. I’m thankful you didn’t give me up as a baby, even though I’m sure it would have been much easier. It’s a scary thought, but surely it crossed your mind. And I’m thankful you didn’t give up Hoss. I can’t imagine not having him as my brother. He has Mama’s generous heart. Both times, you stayed with us and did your best. I’m truly thankful for that. So please, Pa, don’t run from Little Joe. He needs you the way Hoss and me needed you and still do. But I want you to know that no matter how long it takes, I will do my best to keep the Ponderosa running, because one day your cloud of sadness will lift, and you will really be home. We will be here waiting for you Pa; Hoss, Little Joe, and me.
The letter fell from my hands as if I’d been burnt. Dear God in heaven, what kind of father does this to his children? The shame of it all seared my conscience. I crept upstairs and gently opened Adam’s door. I spoke softly from the hallway knowing full well that neither of us were in the right frame of mind to handle any more emotional upheaval.
“Adam?” My ears strained to hear movement in his bed. “Son?” At first there wasn’t a sound leaving me to assume that he had been lying awake listening for the front door and then my feet on the stairs.
I wanted to run to him and throw my arms around him, but I feared my beloved son would not accept it. I said the only words that came to mind. “I’m home, son. I’m home.”
“Night, Pa. Sleep well.”
“Good night, son.”
Adam’s audible sigh of relief made my knees go weak. I closed his door and went to my room where I wept into my pillow like a child until spent. From that moment forward, I vowed to be a father who was grateful for the three precious sons I’d been given and live like it!