The Three of Us

In choosing the short stories gathered here I couldn’t help but be reminded of Aristotle’s prescriptive elements for drama: a protagonist, an antagonist, and a complicator. The reader of these stories might also note that Aristotle could have been writing as well about a three-person family: mother, father, and one child. This, of course, was the underpinning of my family’s drama where Aristotelian lessons played out, lessons reinforced for me later in literature and on the proper stage in the plays of Ibsen, O’Neil, and Miller featuring conflicted families.

Our drama emerged when my family abruptly left Minnesota to resettle on the west coast during the middle of my fifth-grade school year. Nothing compelled my family to move: no new job, no newly purchased home, none of the myriad events that might trigger a dramatic relocation. However, that sudden departure from the Midwest foreshadowed three decades of deepening discord between my parents. As I grew older I realized that whatever the stated reasons for relocating, a deeper desire on my mother’s part had been hidden. She wanted to leave my father. This accounted for her anxiousness to depart even if we as a family were utterly unprepared for what lay ahead. While I was hardly surprised that my parents separated, the timing – late into their senior years – felt as bizarre and awkward as the abruptness of our hejira west so many decades earlier.

My mother informed me thereafter that her life with Dad had been “A Greek tragedy.” Aristotle again. The disintegration of my parent’s marriage taught me not to ignore the daily opportunity to experience some personal truth. Though invisible, wounds left by unspoken longings and unsatisfied needs can be lethal. By exploring moments in which hidden personal yearnings are exposed and blind spots are illuminated (sometimes with discomfort but not without humor) perhaps we may see ourselves with humility and those about us with greater empathy and compassion. If one or more of my tales strikes you as having been successful in illuminating one of those moments I will be gratified.

Video overview of “The Three of Us”