He now had sailed for 40 years. It was the only thing he knew. And from the waters arose a man as dry as if he walked in from a pleasant day. He hoisted himself in the Beyond and sat on the bench across from Rich.
“You are my father, aren’t you?” Rich said. “You haven’t changed from the day I left.”
“I have changed,” the father said. “I’m not that man anymore.”
“And I’m not that son anymore,” Rich said.
“Where did it all go wrong?” the father said.
“I was young then,” Rich said, “and I made a mistake and for some reason thought I could not go back on it.”
“But I forced the mistake,” the father said. “I can’t justify the man I used to be.”
“Are you saying I’m justifying myself?” Rich said.
“You are so quick to challenge every word that does not reach your ear the way you want it to,” the father said. “You learned that from me.”
“Why are you here,” Rich said, “to chastise?”
“No, no,” the father said, “I’ve come to be with you. To make amends. To to tell you I’m sorry.”
“Isn’t it too late?” Rich said.
“Only if you say it is,” the father said.
“Isn’t that putting it on me?” Rich said.
The father smiled. “Who else should it be put on?”
“Than it was all my fault?” Rich said.
“I don’t want you to feel that way,” the father said.
“Than what?” Rich said.
“I didn’t have to come here, you know,” the father said. “I can’t imagine the load I’ve left you with, but I come only to lighten it. And I knew from the beginning, my visit would not be received well, but I had to try.”
“Because you knew it wouldn’t?” Rich said.
“No,” the father said. “You would have come around, I’m here only to expedite the process. You have quite a journey ahead of you and it would not be right to have you carry unneeded cargo.”
“Where did you all the sudden get your concern?” Rich said.
“It was always there,” the father said. “It was never expressed in a way that showed I loved you. I know that now. It was me, my shortcomings, my insecurities, and my personal anger. I had to cure myself first.”
“What about Mom?” Rich said.
“She’s fine,” the father said.
“Are you two at peace?” Rich said.
“Yes, very much so,” the father said. “In fact, we talked it over and agreed I should be the one to come to you/”
“Are you both dead?” Rich said. “Are you real?”
Rich awoke without an answer.
“I don’t believe in voices and apparitions from the grave,” Rich said resolutely. “But I believe in a troubled conscience.”
Troubled and perplexed, Rich stretched the sails and set a course for Rio Gallegos.