Happy June everyone!
We haven’t quite hit summer in Wisconsin yet – still cool here.
Normally I post about my garden and the upcoming solstice – but I thought I’d share some of my work-in-progress instead.
At its heart, HOME AGAIN, is a romance. Big surprise. Yet the jumping in point – the inciting incident – is author, and relationship guru, Garrett Oakley’s estrangement from his father, Robert, and his being forced by circumstance to come home and confront it head-on.
HOME AGAIN: A Door County Novel
Robert Oakley was a kind of man who needed a woman, often many women, around him, to make his life complete. Unfortunately, everyone he loved, with the sole exception of his second grade crush, had up and died on him. Leaving him an empty core of the man he had been with them in his heart, his life, and his bed.
Robert’s father had been the kind of man who worked hard, was often seen with his paper and his pipe, who loved his family in that quiet way of the men of his time—more hands off than openly supportive.
Douglas James Oakley, veteran of the war to end all wars, Robert’s father, made a habit of kissing his wife on the cheek first thing when he came home from work. Before he’d even set his briefcase and lunch tin down on the kitchen table. He often ruffled Robert’s hair affectionately before making his way into his study for an evening cocktail before dinner. No one bothered Robert’s father as he sat alone in his study reviewing the days thoughts and actions. Robert certainly wouldn’t have dared to do so. Instead, Robert spent his time with his mother. He helped her make dinner. He helped her in the garden. And after school when he was done playing with his friends, it was his mother who helped him with his homework. It was his mother he told his hopes and dreams to. And, ultimately, it was his mother loved him more than anyone else in the world.
Robert believed then, as he did now, that it only took one person to love you with their whole heart to elevate your soul and increase your capacity for love. Those changes to one’s spirit were indelible and lasted well beyond one lifetime.
He hadn’t been that person for Garrett. And for that, he paid a heavy price. Garrett seemed determined to see to it. Rarely had he seen Garrett put more effort into anything, than he had in casually hating Robert.
Garrett no longer spoke to him, and hadn’t about anything real, for nearly a decade. Robert regretted his role in making that reality. More than he regretted anything since missing his mother’s funeral. He’d been unconscious in a medivac unit at the time, so it couldn’t be helped, but sometimes things you couldn’t help, hurt nearly as much as those you could. Robert knew he’d let his long dead mother down with his treatment of his son. She’d be ashamed of Robert. Quietly ashamed, but ashamed no less, for his abdication of his parental duties following the death of his wife. And then, the death of his second wife whom Garrett had clung to after losing his own mother. She’d been like the only ship on a stormy sea that may never settle again for Garrett.
Garrett was a man now. He no longer needed a father the way he had when he was young. Robert didn’t miss Garrett’s childhood, but he had missed most of his son’s adolescence. Now Garrett seemed determined to isolate himself from his father. Robert wasn’t going to let anyone, not even Garrett, rob him of knowing his son in whatever time Robert had left on this earth.
Robert didn’t blame Garrett for sidelining him to the role of distance observer. Robert knew he’d earned that. Earned or not, Robert simply wasn’t willing to tolerate it any longer when he could do something to change his relationship with Garrett. What was the worst that could happen, he wondered?
Perhaps he shouldn’t have asked.
But he did ask and he did jump right in and it was a fault of his long dead mother appearing to him in a dream saying as clearly as she often did in their garden, “You can’t grow what you don’t plant, Robert. And you can’t harvest what you don’t tend.”
Right on the heels of his mother’s unsolicited gardening advice, Astrid, the seven-year-old daughter of his manager, Poppy, came barreling into his office and asked him why his son wasn’t helping with the renovations at The Red Robin Inn. Robert told her he hadn’t spoken to Garrett in a long while and that Garrett lived far away and didn’t have time to visit. And he was way too busy writing books to help with building new cottages at the Red Robin.
“Then you should put Garrett in a time out,” Astrid said emphatically. “A really, really, long time out.”
Robert leaned down toward Astrid and said, “Garrett is a grown man. I can’t put him in timeout.”
Astrid cocked her head at him and replied, “you should’ve put him in timeout before he got to be a grown man. Then maybe he’d come home now.”
Robert had never put himself or Garrett in timeout. He probably should have done both long before he lost his first wife. He couldn’t change that, although he would certainly do so if he could.
What he could do was actively plant and start tending the garden he wanted to flourish.
What themes intrigue you in your writing? What types of fiction are your favorites? Family ties always play a role in what I write, and I’m a fan of reading romance with strong family ties and over-arching friendships. How about you?
May your June be filled with love, adventure, and some really great summer reading.