Synopsis: A niggling worry is addressed by Murdoch.
I watch him, reading quietly, occasionally sipping from a cut crystal glass filled with the amber liquid I consider a gift of the gods… and my own forebears in the land of my birth. The fire in the hearth flickers and the light plays across his golden hair momentarily. It is longer and more sun-bleached than when he arrived. His skin is a healthy tan now but still fairer than either his brother or me. He favors his mother in so many ways, it makes my heart ache to think of it. And yet I would give just about anything I own to keep him here, to keep both of my boys here.
I have grown to trust that Johnny has found a home here. His start was rougher for certain but he settled down and we have reached a place where he knows he is loved and he shows his love, and his joy, daily. It is the nature of that boy which is amazing in itself. How difficult must it have been for him to take on the persona of Madrid, cold and menacing and seemingly untouched by his own heart? The boy we live with now is exuberant to the point I almost want to holler at him not to slide down the banister or balance on the corral rail. Almost but not quite enough to do it. I have waited a lifetime to have my boys home with me.
And that brings my mind back to my eldest, and the niggling worry that he may not choose to stay, that this is a stop on his journey to something bigger and better. God knows he is capable of doing, and being, almost anything he wishes. He is not only educated, but smart, charming, curious, interested in people and ideas. I value his leadership with our men, his judgment and his quick mind. He has brought several innovations to the work we do and, though I resisted at first out of need to be the “tune-caller,” I found them to be sensible and productive once I gave them a chance. And my son, while he has a sliver of my temper that flashes out of nowhere occasionally, he generally has the patience and perspective to wait for me to ruminate on his suggestions. He is in many ways, measured and thoughtful and he complements his brother and me in that regard. But… he still calls me “sir” as though I were a respected senior officer. I see his heart show through most with his younger brother to be brutally honest. And I worry that, perhaps in time, that will not be enough. Scott was the first to agree to my deal on that first day and perhaps, having made the decision so quickly and with less practical knowledge of what this life entails, he will, in time, find another opportunity that captures his interest at some point. I don’t know….
I am not a man to wait and worry though.
He looks up from his book. “Yes, sir?”
I smile, trying not to betray the sadness that sparks within me at his response.
“I… I want to ask you something.”
He nods. “Is it about the survey work Johnny and I did today? I planned to ask you about something we saw today—“
“No, Scott. Not about the work. I want to ask about you, son.”
“Me?” His eyes widen with worry. “Have I done something wrong?”
“Wrong?” I find myself nearly laughing. “No, not at all. You have learned the art and science of ranching faster than anyone I ever met. And as for anything else… well, you are a son to make a father proud to the point of popping his shirt buttons.”
He smiles and relaxes slightly but I see continued curiosity behind his eyes. When he is worried or sad, they are the gray of a rain-filled sky. Now they are the watery blue of his mother’s eyes. Funny how I have noticed the little things that show me how he is feeling. Unlike his brother, he does not betray much outwardly and I have taken to reading signs.
“No, boy, you rarely do anything I would not do. But…,” I smile now, “when that occasionally happens, I hope you know that my reaction is that of a father who wants only the best for his sons.”
He smiles and looks down at his hands, as though there is something about that father-son connection that he is still not comfortable with. And that thought is a knife to my heart.
“Are you happy, Scott? Here, I mean?”
His head pops up and his eyes go gray in a moment. “Yes, sir, of course I’m happy.”
I nod. “I want you to think for a moment, not to reassure me. Are you satisfied with the life? Are you—do you feel like this is home, son? I am asking because, sometimes, I feel like you are here for now—“
“I don’t know what I have done to make you feel that way, sir. I—I try to carry my share—“
“Scott! Stop for a moment. And come here, please.” I gesture toward the ottoman in front of my leather chair. “Come here, and let me tell you what I mean, and what I am asking.”
He rises, stops briefly and looks at his glass of whiskey and then apparently thinks better of it. He comes over and sits in front of me but I see he is not completely comfortable with the questions. I place a large hand on his thigh and squeeze it affectionately.
“I am asking about what you feel, Scott, about living here, about the life you took on when you chose to stay. Are you satisfied? Do you see yourself here with Johnny and me for the years to come? Does your… your heart tell you this is home?
He takes a deep breath. “I—it does.”
He pauses as though waiting for me to settle for that answer but I am silent, waiting.
He takes a second deep breath at the realization that I am waiting him out. “I love being here…. I feel more at home than I have at any point in my life. Knowing you, finding out about Johnny, being part of this family is everything I ever wanted growing up in Boston. I think you are asking if I miss the society, the culture of a big city, and I would be lying if I said I do not occasionally wish to go to the theater or hear a symphony. But those things are nothing compared to having a brother….” He swallows hard. “And a father. Does that answer your question?”
I smile, broadly. “It does. I… I so want you to be here with me, for the rest of my life to be honest. I want you and Johnny to marry and raise your children here and then pass this land and this life on to them. I just wondered if you saw that future for yourself, my son.”
He smiles. “Well… I don’t think either of us is looking to marry any time soon but… yes, in the future when we do, we both want our kids to be here, to know their uncle and cousins and… their grandfather. We have talked about it, Johnny and I.”
“You have?” I chuckle, a spark of joy rising in my heart.
“Yes. To be honest, he was the one to raise the question. I… I guess he had the same concern you apparently have had about me. Only he doesn’t have your patience….”
I laugh. “He seems to have been out of the room when the good Lord handed out patience. I hope he learns it from being with you. And, perhaps you and I will learn to be a little more forthcoming with our feelings from him.”
Scott laughs now. “I’m working on it. Johnny says I sometimes need to take the hangar out of my shirt before I put it on.”
I snort. “I can hear him saying that. But you take it at your own speed, son. I just want you to know that…” I stop, and gather my courage. “… to know that I love you boys more than life itself. I may not show that every day but I do.”
His eyes reflect something new, they are the blue of an infinite sky now and I sense more than see golden sunlight in them. “Thank you for telling me. I think I knew but… thank you. I feel the same, sir… Father.”
It feels like my heart is bursting within my chest and I spontaneously reach out for him, pulling him into a hug. “I think I am happier at this moment, my son, than any day of my life until now.”
I ruffle the back of his hair and pull back to look at him, my hands settling on his shoulders. I look directly into his eyes and he does not look away. “How about a refill on that whiskey? I could use a drink right about now….”