Christmas in Hong Kong and Snow and Ashes

On to the last two stories in Coming to Terms:

The principal character in “Christmas in Hong Kong” is again an older man and a father—and a grandfather—named Ferdie. Others in his life, especially his wife, discount him as living past his time and being essentially of no use to anybody. When a neighbor’s dog attacks his grandson, Mikey, he drives the dog off and demands that the dog be destroyed.

Ferdie’s child is his daughter, Mattie, Mikey’s mother. She is devoted to Ferdie and distressed to see him dismissed by his wife (not her mother) and others. In passing, she mentions how funky it would be to go to Hong Kong at Christmas. He takes her up on it.

“Snow and Ashes,” the last story in Coming to Terms, is set in a house I rented a room in during my poverty years following the breakup of my first marriage. The same house appears again in my novel Secretocracy. I’ve already described the house in this blog (see the post titled “The Secretocracy House”).

The story is about a man dying of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. He inherited the house and wants to assure that after his death it will continue to be used as a home for mentally and physically disabled men. He rents a room to a professional man down on his luck in hopes that he will be the man to take over the running of the house.

Writing about the stories in Coming to Terms has brought home to me the important issues in my life. So much of my writing deals with fatherhood. Music appears repeatedly. Nearly all my protagonists are men.

One oddity is that homosexuality is so prominent in my stories. The reason is that I spent five years volunteering to care for men dying of AIDS. I started out with the usual biases about gay men and learned that sexual preference does not shape character or personality. I was so moved by the experience that I wrote a novel about a straight man caring for a gay man dying of AIDS, No-Accounts.

I’m reminded of a saying from an author (now I’ve forgotten who). It very much applies to me: “To know me, know my books.”

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