Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"Daddy Doesn't Sleep Here Anymore" by Ruth Marcus Williams

Daddy Doesn’t Sleep Here Anymore.
by Ruth Marcus Williams

Thursday was our maids’ night off. My brother and I then played a game we called “sneak.” It consisted of sneaking out of bed, running wild, and generally harassing our mother. As my brother was 5 years older than I, he got the brunt of my mothers wrath.

One Thursday night, at age 6, I said to my brother, “Let’s play sneak.” 

“Not tonight,” my brother said.

“Why not?” I whined.

“Because Mommy’s crying,” he replied.

It was then that I saw my mother pacing up and down the long foyer of our apartment, crying.

“Mommy and Daddy got divorced today and Daddy got married to a Gold digger,” continued my brother.

“What’s a Gold digger?” I asked.

“Someone who marries someone for their money,” he said.

“Oh,” I said, not comprehending. “What does divorced mean?”

“It means 2 people are no longer married.”

“What does Married mean?”

“That’s when…oh forget it. Just go to sleep.”

And so, still not understanding a word he had said, I went to bed.

Afterward, the only thing strange to me was when I would visit other peoples homes and see one enormous bed! I couldn’t figure out why they had one and we didn’t. Finally I asked my brother and he explained that those were called double beds and were for married people. I thought it peculiar that a man and a woman had to sleep in the same bed when they got married. I thought it would be nice to have such an enormous bed just for myself.

One day when I was 10, friends came to the house to play. Upon seeing our 2 bedrooms one friend became vitally interested in who slept where. After my explanation she said, “But where do your mother and father sleep?”

“Oh, my mother and father are divorced,” I said with a casualness I didn’t feel. Instead, I felt ashamed. In the 1930’s divorce wasn’t as common as today. In fact, I didn’t know anyone whose parents were divorced. Thereafter, unless I was pinned down, as I was that day, I never told anyone that my parents were divorced.

During my teens, I became more and more curious about this man I now called “Father.” For reasons that were never explained to me, I could only visit him at his office where getting to see him was as unpredictable as playing Russian Roulette. Everytime I’d approach his secretary and ask to see him she’d say, “I don’t know if he’s in- let me check.”

I knew damn well he was there- it was just a question of whether he was in the mood to see me. More often than not she would come back saying, “I’m sorry, he left.” Then I’d leave feeling good for nothing. Other times when I’d been told he wasn’t in, my father would come flying out of his office just as I was about to enter the elevator.

“Look, I’m busy,” he’d say, “but do you need any money?”

Fighting back tears I’d say, “ I could always use some.” Then he would give me fifty or a hundred dollars. Damn it, I’d think, I don’t want his money; I want his love. If my own father doesn’t love me, who will?

Sometimes though, after checking, the secretary would say, “ Your father will see you now.” As I would enter his office, shaking from nervousness, he’d inevitably be on the phone and wave me to a seat. While he continued his conversation I’d study him- this enigma of a man who by blood was my father. Did I look like him? Did we have any traits in common? What would it be like to live with him? Question after question spun through my head.

Between calls he would scrutinize me , and at one time or another he would say, “Your hair is messy.” Or “ Your voice is too high pitched.” Or You’re wearing too much lipstick.” Or “ You’re too skinny.” Or “You’re too sensitive.” No matter what- I would leave that office feeling worthless.

During the ensuing years I saw less and less of my father, and he never got in touch with me. Until he died, 5 years ago, he had remained a stranger. I wish it had been otherwise…

Ruth Marcus Williams
Sunday, August 17, 1980

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