Father or Paddy as I thought of him, because that’s what my Mother called him, when she was in a good mood, was devouring his burger and fries, although he was not drinking the stale coffee I served him. I had to laugh to myself over that because he thought he was an expert on coffee. He had to have the best brand and it had to be ground just so and brewed so many minutes. I wondered how he liked the lukewarm coffee I served him that had been sitting there for a few hours? I thought he wouldn’t be coming here anymore, which was of course my purpose in being so obnoxious to him. That and I was really angry at him for leaving us again with out so much as a goodby.
I was angry and at the same time I was relieved that he was gone, because he was making Mother miserable and they were always arguing. Also Anna and I had a lot more freedom when he wasn’t there. Not that we got into trouble but we did like to be able to go wherever and whenever we wanted.
We were Catholic school girls for crying out loud and we had so many guilt trips laid on us, mostly by the priests and nuns, that we wouldn’t know how to be “wild,” which was the phrase of the day for young people, even if we wanted to. Our idea of a good time was to go to the library, the movies or to a school dance. At this time we really hadn’t started dating, so we just got together with our friends at school or at the school dances and those times we were in with our friends whose company we enjoyed.
As I was waiting on people, I saw that Paddy was trying to get my attention but I pretended not to notice and kept my back turned. A few minutes later Trudy went over to see if he wanted anything else and they spoke for a few minutes before he got up and headed for the door. I happened to be waiting on several people at the soda fountain so my attention was diverted and I did not see him leave.
I don’t know what he expected of me, he is the one who left us so many times that I couldn’t remember. And the last time was the last time! Mother had it with him and she swore she would never take him back. Don’t know what he thought I could do about the situation, if anything. Sure I sat with him and his buddies while they played poker and told stories about the war. Most of them were too old to be in the war anyway but it didn’t stop them from telling the stories. The only reason he was drafted at forty- two was because he had deserted his family! Then he didn’t want his allotment sent to us until he had to, because the Army took that decision out of his hands.
If it were up to him we would be still living in the shack with the rain coming through the holes in the roof. Why Mother had taken him back at all, I didn’t know, he was never a help to us. I suppose he thought now that Anna and I were getting older, we would be working and bringing in money to the family and he wouldn’t have to work much, if at all.
After he left, Trudy came over and said, “He left this for you,” as she handed me two dollars.
I took the money and put it in my uniform pocket and noticing the look on her face said, “What’s with you?”
“How could you treat your Father like that?” she said.
“Don’t question me unless you know what you are talking about!” I snapped back.
She let it drop then and we went back to our respective duties.
I did not know it then but that was the last time I saw my Father. I was fourteen.