Many of the stories in Coming to Terms deal with disruption of families. They were written when my family was coming apart and reflect my despair.
One, called “Fuchsias,” tells of a man’s decision to leave his wife because it’s so obvious that she doesn’t care about him. That was my story. As related elsewhere in this blog, it was becoming blatantly obvious to me that my wife cared nothing for me. After the fall of Saigon, when I was at my lowest ebb, she refused to come to me and left me on my own. The fuchsias of the title refer to the favorite of my flowers in those days. When I was growing up in northern California, fuchsias were everywhere because the climate—never too hot—favored them. But the summer heat of Maryland meant I had to work hard to shelter my fuchsias. In my mind, they became the symbol of the marriage. At the end of the story, the man destroys the fuchsias he has worked so hard to nurture.
Another story, “Wolf Rock,” relates the camping trip of a father and his two adult sons. One son is doing the fine, the other is in trouble. The troubled son’s wife has left him and taken the children with her. He insists on being an artist (he’s a musician) even though he’s not making any money and they are deep in debt. Told from the point of view of the boy’s father, the story ends when the protagonist refuses to bail his son out financially yet again. It’s time for the boy to face his responsibilities.
“Christmas in Hong Kong” is about an old man, Ferdie, and his daughter, Mattie. Ferdie’s wife insists that he apologize for kicking the dog that bit his grandson. Ferdie comes to understand that his wife cares more about their standing in the neighborhood than she does about the welfare of the family or her grandchild. He proposes to Mattie that he take her to Hong Kong for Christmas, a fulfillment of one of her fantasies. His wife will not be invited to join them.
In reading these stories today, I am struck by how much they reflected the dilemmas I faced in my younger years. I’ve noted several times in this blog that my fiction is based on real events. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to discover that these stories reflect my own life decisions.