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EoA: A Sense of Loss

Edge of Apocalypse: pages 228-231 (Chapter Thirty-Nine)

The title of this has to do with both the Cal/Joshua son/father interaction as well as the fact that Joshua Jordan gets a rather unpleasant bit of news.

Back in his high-rise office in New York, Joshua Jordan was letting his call go through to his son on his speakerphone while he continued to scan a weapons design memo from his engineering team.

You know, I wonder what Josh’s company does besides make improbable missile deflection systems. It clearly makes offensive as well as defensive equipment. I looked ahead and, as is typical of Josh’s egotism, his company’s name is Jordan Technologies. Incidentally, the initial pages noted that the RTS-RGS had been in the works for ten years prior to its deployment earlier in the book, so to support that kind of ongoing R&D his company must have been selling other stuff to keep the $$ coming in.

Food for thought, anyway.

Cal, of course, is in class, thus his non-answer:

The phone kept ringing. Joshua put the paper down. He’s not going to pick up. So, he knows it’s me calling, and he’s not picking up. Of course, he could still be in class. Take it easy, Joshua. Give the kid a break.

(italics in the original text)

Given the use of meaningful names in this book series, the part where Josh thinks back on his good buddy is almost superfluous:

Joshua thought back to the call he had just received from Rocky Bridger, a man whose fortitude was usually chiseled out of granite. But when Joshua had picked up his telephone call, his voice sounded different.

The details of the call itself are that Rocky has just found out his son-in-law’s dead. They apparently knew each other well, because Rocky’s pretty upset over it.

“Roger, my son-in-law…murdered…Joshua…my God, he’s gone.”

When Rocky collected himself, he shared the slight information he had. The police were playing cloak-and-danger with this. But the horrible bottom line was that Roger French was murdered in his office in downtown Philadelphia. The local police were being extremely tight-lipped about the details, though they’d mentioned that the FBI had some interest in the case. But his son-in-law was gone, the victim of a brutal crime, and now Rocky was with his daughter, who was in shock and was inconsolable.

Josh tries to help Rocky, but he finds he just doesn’t seem to know what to say. That feels pretty realistic. I’ve been in online communities long enough that there have been people who’ve died, or whose family members have died, and I always find that whatever I type feels so inadequate compared to the magnitude of what has happened. I mean, what do you say? “I’m sorry” sounds quite trite and useless, but sometimes it’s all one can come up with.

So inasmuch as Josh is acting fairly human in this chapter, Parshall is to be credited with verisimilitude.

He had immediately called Abby. He’d always been impressed with her sense of compassion, but this time her willingness to drop everything to go to Philadelphia to help the family was particularly heartwarming.

Now I need to snark: Abby’s famous for butting in where she’s not supposed to, as we’ve seen before; taking upon herself decisions that should be made by other people seems to be a problem for her. One wonders if she might accidentally offend the Bridgers in doing so.

However, Josh is improving in the family relations area, it seems. This next paragraph showing Josh’s thoughts reminds me, again, quite forcefully of two father-son dynamics in Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Commander Riker has been estranged from his own father, having left home at fifteen, and not seeing his father again until Kyle Riker offers Will the command of his own. They end up working out their differences over a martial arts game, and Kyle is finally able to admt certain things to his son.

Another father/son reconciliation dynamic is not so successful. Ambassador Spock, having once been alienated from his father, Sarek, in the TOS era of Star Trek, has, by the time of TNG, again become alienated over the matter of how to deal with the Cardassian Empire. Spock, working undercover on Romulus, is not aware that Sarek is dying. Unfortunately, Spock never gets the chance to have one final talk with his father, and during that episode, Picard says, “fathers and sons…”, which, in the novelization, has Riker being acutely aware of his own rocky relationship with Kyle and getting a chance to reconcile his differences.

So Josh, in the aftermath of his talk with Rocky, ruminates on this:

Then something struck Joshua like a meteor. Rocky just lost his son-in-law. To a senseless murder. Your life changes in a heartbeat. You can lose them…so quickly. When was the last time I told Cal that I loved him? Debbie and I don’t have that issue. She’s so up-front with everything. But Cal and I…things have always been uptight. Strained. And the clock keeps ticking. And nothing gets resolved. What if something happened to me? And I didn’t get a chance to smooth things out with Cal beforehand?

(italics in the original)

This really resonates with me because of the impact of those two TNG episodes I watched; the creators of those episodes went to some lengths to make them believable and realistic. I also read several non-canon TOS books that touched on Spock’s relationship with his father, so that may also be why it sticks out in my mind in particular.

The above section of the chapter really kind of suggested the title, because Josh thinking about losing his son permanently is what motivates his phone call. He finally gets hold of Cal, and after the preliminaries and telling Cal Rocky’s son-in-law is dead, Josh takes the opportunity to try and reach out to his son.

“Just tell you…”

There was a pause.

“I love you.”

Joshua wanted to elaborate somehow, but ended it there instead.

Taken off guard, Cal could only mumble, “Thanks, Dad.”

“Sometime we need to talk, you and I.”

“Okay.”

“Man-to-man.”

“All right.”

Cal was thinking to himself, What is this all about? But asking that was too risky.

“I mean,” Joshua added, “about what happened in New York. The day the missiles came. With you still being in the city…”

A quick note: unlike most of the sections of this book, Parshall has shifted to an omniscient POV, because we see Josh and Cal’s emotions and thoughts in this section. The shift of perspectives is probably worth noting, because of the way Cal usually gets such short shrift. It also allows us to compare what Cal is thinking to what Josh is thinking, and it’s already clear that Cal is a bit cynical and a bit suspicious of this sudden change in his father, who has been distant and probably harsh with his son in the past.

Cal asking what “this” is all about being “too risky” sounds like he’s probably asked his dad about things like this in the past and been shut down completely.

Cal was thinking, You mean so you can drill me about how I didn’t tell you the truth about staying behind in Manhattan with my girlfriend, Karen Hester, who you don’t approve of? You mean we need to talk about that? I already admitted all of that to Mom. Can’t you just let it go?

(italics in the original)

And it’s clear that Cal thinks Josh is not really telling the truth about just wanting to talk for the sake of reconciliation. Considering he’s probably been badgered before by Josh and after getting love-bombed by Abigail, I don’t blame him for wanting to stay away from clearly toxic parents.

The conversation is basically finished by this point and Cal rings off.

Some students who had just been in his government class when he took on Jeff Hitchney passed him by and called out his name and gave him the thumbs-up sign.

Cal smiled weakly and acknowledged them.

But inside, he was in turmoil.

The chapter didn’t make it clear initially but it sounds like Cal was having to talk to Josh while in the hallway at university, which sounds like a pretty uncomfortable place to have really personal conversations over the phone. That could certainly explain Cal’s reticence and quick retreat to emotionally more comfortable mental spaces, which apparently include the emotional realm of distant father, faraway son.

I can’t say I blame Cal here; at that age I didn’t want to be near my family overmuch and would have preferred to stay at university year-round had that been practical.

I don’t want to spoil the sequel too much, but I’ve managed to get my mitts on it and I will say in light of reading it, the father-son alienation problem that we see here in Edge of Apocalypse is something that we should pay attention to, both in its own right as a major part of what makes Cal and Josh who they are, but also because of what it says about the authors. They often say, “write what you know/are interested in”, and this seems to be true here. LaHaye is interested in Christian theology, and in how the Bible might point the way to describing future events rather than those of several thousand years ago. He’s also apparently very familar with familial alienation issues. I’m less familiar with Parshall, but given that the back of the book says he works with National Religious Broadcasters, he’s clearly familiar with the radio, which probably explains why Teretsky the radio guy was involved at all.

In Left Behind, the only stable father and offspring relationship is that of Rayford and Chloe. We barely see or hear of Buck’s family; I think they get a page of telephone time or so. It’s telling that in LaHaye-sponsored books, the father-son relationships seem particularly fraught with tension while the father-daughter ones do not.

Kind of makes you realize that in the hands of better authors, the knowledge LaHaye provides could have made for some excellent books. However the Christian faith that Abigail has is superfluous to the tale of a shadowy battle between two separate groups of conspirators fighting over control of the ultimate defensive weapon. It’s almost like there’s two separate stories being told. The whole question of religious faith isn’t needed to explain or understand the struggle over the RTS-RGS. Conversely, the existence of the RTS-RGS, while it may help justify the interpretation of Israel being unharmed by Russian missiles (I assume this plot point will occur at some stage of the series, as LaHaye has relied on miraculous non-explosion of missiles before), isn’t needed to explore the differing religious faiths of the characters involved or their family dynamics.

So that’s that for the Calmeister and his dad. Next chapter we’ll see both Atta Zimler and John Gallagher.

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4 thoughts on “EoA: A Sense of Loss

  1. “He’s not going to pick up. So, he knows it’s me calling, and he’s not picking up.”

    That’s his first instinct when his son doesn’t IMMEDIATELY pick up the phone. Casting blame. What a great dad.

    “It’s telling that in LaHaye-sponsored books, the father-son relationships seem particularly fraught with tension while the father-daughter ones do not.”

    So very true, and I can only speculate that the gender essentialism inherent in RTC-ity has at least something to do with it. Daughters are precious little girls with sensitive feelings (which you should encourage, as their highest calling is to be mothers). So a RTC father can be gentle and caring and openly affectionate with daughters.

    Sons, OTOH, must be trained to be Manly. So we certainly don’t want to do anything like hug them or kiss them or tell them we love them, because that could make them weak and, even worse, leave them open to Teh Gheyness. Let your son see that it’s okay to cry, and next thing you know, he wants to be an artist. I bet Josh is awake nights wondering where he went wrong.

  2. Pingback: Rappy Reads Fundamentalist Literature « Rappy's Review Board

  3. I see Jordan Technologies as working on all sorts of completely wild ideas that aren’t expected to produce anything useful any time soon – which means the money keeps flowing.

    “When’s the last time I told Cal that I loved him? Hmm, let me check my diary. 17th birthday, when he became a man and put away childish things. That’s OK then.”

    I’m slightly encouraged by the fact that in this series we don’t seem to be getting the blatant miracles that happen in Soon and Left Behind. It leaves room for genuine and honest doubt. Not that I expect to meet any genuine and honest doubters!

  4. Rubytea: “That’s his first instinct when his son doesn’t IMMEDIATELY pick up the phone. Casting blame. What a great dad.”

    I was kind of generous to Parshall in this, I guess because I saw it as, yes, Joshua Jordan’s failing as a decent human being. But… it a story that wasn’t being ghostwritten for LeHaye, this could come off as a good, telling scene. Jordan starts off thinking that Cal isn’t answering because his domineering dad — oh wait, that’s me! — is calling. And there’s a twinge of guilt there. Joshua, for probably the first time in his life, is trying to be enough of a human to tell his son that he really does genuinely love him. (Or at least as close to love as Jordan can love anyone, or love someone whom he thinks has made Foolish Life Coices.) It’s… surprisingly moving.

    I’m sure this moment of ‘Wow, Jordan seems to be treating Cal like a human and not the Fourth Jordan’ will pass. =P

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