One of the stories in the book is actually based on my own regret at losing one of my wonderful sons over 35 years ago. For reasons of his own he cut himself off from me and the family and I do not know his whereabouts today.
—Esther Pauls, author of "Mending Fences"
Relationships between people inevitably bring about conflict. And yet, these moments can sometimes spark creativity.
When writer Esther Paul
was thinking about how to approach her next book, she realized a common thread was emerging.SCENE invited Esther to explain how her own life experience led to her third book.
The theme for my latest book Mending Fences
emerged as I reviewed some of my short stories. I realized many of them were about 'making things right' or redressing past wrongs. Over the years I have heard people voice regrets over past events in which they omitted doing the 'right' thing or had done some harm to others.
One of the stories in the book is actually based on my own regret at losing one of my wonderful sons over 35 years ago. For reasons of his own he cut himself off from me and the family and I do not know his whereabouts today. My sorrow at his loss led me to write a 'what-if' story for my own consolation and peace of soul.
I imagined a long-lost son suddenly returning to visit his elderly widowed mother.
Here is an excerpt from "Lost.Found.Lost":One sultry evening, she sat reading in the sunroom of her Ottawa apartment. It was very late. She was surprised and a bit alarmed by a knock on her door. Now who can that be at this hour?
A glance through the peep-hole showed a man, a stranger. "Who is it?" she called through the door.
"Is that you, Elizabeth? This is someone you know from years ago."
She hesitated, asked again, "Who is it?"
"It's Justin, Mother."
Opening the door, she stood gaping at her youngest son, who lived somewhere in Vancouver, the last she had heard.
He carried a bouquet of flowers, and had a suede jacket over his arm. When she could find her voice she invited him in and hovered by the door as he pulled his suitcase over the threshold. Uncertain whether to hug him or offer her hand, she did nothing. She was suddenly conscious of her appearance, wearing no make-up and a ratty caftan over her nightgown. I must look like an old hag - he hasn't seen me for twenty or thirty years.
"Hello, Mother." Holding out the bouquet to her, he smiled.
"Well, for goodness sake! What a surprise."
"Yes, I'm sure it is - just turning up this way - no warning." He continued to smile.
Taking the proffered flowers, she stuttered, "Come in. Come in," and turned away towards the kitchen to put the flowers in water. He laid his jacket on the chair by the door and followed her silently. He watched while she shakily fetched a vase from an upper shelf, ran water, cut the stems. Is this another dream - like the many I've had over the years? She glanced sideways at him. Yes, it really is Justin. Still standing tall, clean-shaven, his face finely chiselled, straight nose, slightly crooked smile. He's thin though - too thin.
Carrying the vase, Elizabeth walked into the living room and placed it on a side table. Clicked on a lamp. Again he followed without speaking. Guess he's giving me a little time to collect my wits.
"Please sit, my dear," she said finally, indicating a comfortable armchair near the windows. "Will you excuse me a moment?" Without waiting for an answer she fled down the hall to her en suite bathroom. Quickly, she threw off her caftan, brushed her hair, dabbed on some lipstick, and put on a long silk housecoat, then returned to the living room.
She found him standing by the bookcase, perusing the titles. He turned to face her. "I have heard that you have several books in publication, Mother. Good for you."
"Um-hmm." She nodded. "Yes, four actually." But let's not talk about books; I want to know why you're here. Why now after all these years of silence?
Esther Paul (E. Evans)
Esther Paul grew up in Minnedosa, Manitoba. After working as a registered nurse, art teacher and entrepreneur, she got her master's degree in Pastoral Counselling. She then began writing poetry, fiction and print. She now lives in Kanata, Ontario.
Mending Fences launches on Sunday June 3 at 2:00 p.m. at McNally Robinson.