When my grandfather passed away, he bequeathed to me all his possessions; the results of a life time of labor spent over the seas. Consumed by wanderlust, he became a seamen’s apprentice when he was only a little boy, training himself to be a full- fledged sailor and then going on to commander his own vessel.
At the end of every voyage he would return to his homeland and spend time with relatives and friends. He also made judicious use of this time, finding a wife and starting his own family. At the end of a particularly long journey, he returned with a small baby in his arms, claiming that his men had discovered it inside the ship after it had sailed away from the coast of Chile. It was difficult to believe that when the vessel had berthed at the bustling port of Valparaiso, someone had slipped in unnoticed carrying a howling infant and then escaped after abandoning it inside. My grandfather declared his intention to raise the child. My docile grandmother quietly acquiesced, thus making my father a part of their family.
My uncles and aunts and all other relatives never disguised their hatred for the adopted child. It was understandable though. As he grew older his uncanny resemblance to his adopted father only became stronger. However, my grandmother never expressed any aversion even though she must have felt it. She made sure that father was treated equally, went to the same school, wore the same clothes, played with the same toys and ate the same food. For some reason my grandfather seemed to be fonder of him than his other children. Probably by virtue of that affection I also became his favorite grandchild and earned the right to his entire estate, all of which fit into a dilapidated trunk.
He had earned a considerable fortune in his lifetime. But along with his passion for the sea he was also plagued with the vices of a sailor, booze, gambling and women; he managed to squander it all away. It is difficult to respect a man who causes so much suffering to his wife. I really adored my grandmother and loved her much more than I ever did her husband. The only reason I admired him was because like him, I was also tormented by wanderlust. I used to pester him for stories of his travels which endeared me to him. Perhaps, that is why he willed me all that he had.
When I opened the trunk it was full of souvenirs from the sea. I found conches of great beauty, maps, a compass, a photo album and lots of diaries. When I browsed through them, I realized that many of them had been written by other sailors. How they came in my grandfather’s possessions will always remain a mystery. It could be that he received it as a gift from dying seamen or he would have retained it when someone died at the sea and had no family. The diaries were written in a real bad hand, maybe because it is difficult to write on a ship. In some cases they were written in an alien script.
Only when I mustered the courage to unravel the contents of some of them, did I realize what a treasure trove of knowledge and pleasure my grandfather had left me behind. I have no idea whether the incidents described in the diaries are real or just ravings of yearning sailors ( some readers would say demented minds). Some of the writings are highly graphic and sexual in nature. I leave it to the readers to decide the veracity of these tales. For my part, I will put up for public consumption the fascinating accounts captured in my grandfather’s legacy. Off course, it can only happen at the speed at which I can decipher and rewrite and in some cases arrange a translator for my ancestral heirlooms.