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.
My Aunt Wynne was a real dilly! There are other words that spring to mind but they are better left unsaid. My Mother and Wynne were sisters and she would come to visit quite frequently. We kids ranged in ages from twelve down to five. We all liked Wynne mostly because she was a lot of fun, she always had a joke or story to tell us. A lot of which was something we should not be hearing, like swear words or sometimes titillating subjects, usually when my Mother was not around.
My Mother would chastise Wynne sometimes but it never bothered her and she would keep doing it and we would keep listening to her. Wynne didn’t listen very well especially when someone told her she could not do something. She was a flapper in the days when it was popular to be one. One time, she tried to teach us the Charleston but we never seemed to catch on. Sometimes she would bring her current boyfriend and they usually brought goodies then, like ice cream or cookies. That’s one of the reasons we liked her so much.
One Christmas which was particularly hard for us as Father was gone to stay with his Mother, leaving us in the lurch with no food or means to buy any. This seemed to be happening on a fairly regular basis, more so it seemed after a new baby was born. I suppose the responsibility was too great for him. So Mother was our only means of support and she had to take care of us kids.
Wynne, knowing that Mother was not going to be able to get us much or anything for Christmas, thought she was helping by telling us this story. It was only a few days before Christmas and like all kids we were expecting at least one present. So Wynne gathered us all around and began, “You know kids something bad happened to Santa this year. The Police spotted him speeding in his car and they arrested him. So he is cooling his heels in jail right now and probably be there through Christmas. So he won’t be able to deliver your presents this year.” Tears started rolling down our faces, except twelve-year-old Anna, as she didn’t believe anymore. I was ten and beginning to waver but I still thought there may be a chance, so I was as devastated as the younger kids.
Mother had come into the room and caught Wynne in the act and said to us, “Aunt Wynne was just kidding, Santa is not really in jail and you will still be getting a few presents although not many. We went to bed happy then and Aunt Wynne was banished from our house for a time.
But over the years Aunt Wynne continued with her shenanigans and while we never quite believed her, it didn’t keep her from trying.
When John awoke his tongue felt thick and fuzzy and smelled like a small animal had taken a dump in there. His head was throbbing to beat the band and it dawned on him that he was not at home in his own bed. The walls here were a stark white and a large woman was standing by the bed frowning down on him. “Do I know you, he croaked?”
“”Not yet you don’t but will you will soon learn to not only know me but to love me as much as you love your own Mother.”
John doubted this very much but wasn’t about to argue with this large, formidable looking woman .
“Hmm, he mumbled, can I possible get something for this God awful pain,”he asked?
“This is where the love comes in.” This woman had a sense of humor but you could not tell that by her facial expression.
“It was touch and go whether you were going to wake up today,” she was smiling now for some reason.
“Really,” he croaked. ‘Can’t seem to get my voice under control,’ he mused to himself. “What exactly happened? I know I was driving last I remembered and now here I am.”
“The doctor will be in shortly to talk to you. So in the meantime, why don’t you try to get a little more sleep and then I will wake you for breakfast.” Sounded like an order to him even though she was being pleasant now. “But I can tell you that you were in an accident and the other fellow is just fine, a few cuts and bruises is all.”
“Of course,” he muttered under his breadth.
John tried to remember the accident but everything was a blur and his head throbbed when he tried to recall things. He did remember that he was thinking of Alice right before the crash. ‘I wonder if she’s been notified,’ he thought. ‘Oh of course not, how would they even know her name or number to call her; he had not listed it anywhere in his address book and he was out of it up until now. He had better call and let her know as soon as possible. She would be wondering what happened to him. At least he hoped she would.
John fell asleep after getting something for the pain and when he woke, the doctor was there. After John’s questions about his broken and fractured bones the doctor explained what was broken and how long it would take to heal. He would be out of commission for some time so the doctor gave him some referrals of people who were caregivers until he could get back on his feet, literally. He would be needing someone to live in, clean and cook his meals and also drive him to doctor’s appointments etc. ‘God what a mess,’ John thought. ‘Why did this have to happen to me?’
After a few days he felt good enough to call Alice and let her know what was going on. She was very concerned and wanted to come to see him right away but he made her promise to wait until he was in a little better shape and wasn’t just a moaning blob of flesh crying for pain medication. So when she did come, he had just found out he would be released in a few days but that he needed someone at home when he got there to make sure everything was running smoothly and could take care of him properly. So while his arm was in a cast and he had a few ribs taped, he still had one good arm and he could walk. So he wasn’t completely disabled and he knew he would recover quickly. Alice was making a fuss over him and seemed very concerned that he was comfortable.
“Now John I don’t want you to take this the wrong way but I would like to come over and take care of you while you are recuperating. I checked at work and they are willing to work around me if I am off for a while and I can do some phone work from your house but I will be there whenever you need me. What do you think?”
“Well Alice, it’s a great offer, but I don’t want you putting yourself through that. You have your own life and I don’t want to interfere with that.”
“You would not be interfering with anything. I would be more than happy to take care of you during this time, at least until you are back on your feet and can do everything for yourself. You know in Real Estate we are usually never in the office anyway. We do a lot of our business over the phone and computer and meet people at the property to be sold.”
So two days later when John was released from the hospital, Alice was there to pick him up. She drove him home and got him settled on the couch with pillows and a blanket and then set about making him some lunch. She had gone to the grocery store and got in some provisions the day before. Within minutes it seemed, she had a bowl of hot vegetable soup and a turkey sandwich on a tray in front of him.
“You know Alice I could get used to this real fast. Better not pamper me too much or you’ll create a monster.”
“Is there anything else I can do for you John,” her voice cracked and there was a tear rolling down her cheek. He could tell that she was really concerned about him.
“As a matter of fact there is,” He motioned for her to sit next to him on the couch. With his good arm, he pulled her closer and kissed her.
“Well you are certainly feeling pretty frisky Mister, for someone who is just out of the hospital. You know I think I will charge you for nursing you back to health but I’ll throw in the kisses for free,” she smiled seductively.
John thought to himself, ‘maybe having that accident wasn’t so bad after all.’
The decor was elegant and her love of art apparent in the many seascapes and still life paintings adorning Alice’s walls. They sat on the couch and sipped coffee to which Alice had added a little brandy after John agreed and the conversation turned to Gloria’s Father. John had wondered about him and Alice seemed anxious to tell John that she was divorced and not on very friendly terms with her ex-husband. Alice told him that she had been divorced for five years and was doing just fine with her job as a Real Estate agent. The ex lived in another state and neither she nor Gloria had seen the “bastard” in several years. And what’s more, they liked it that way. Seems he was a big drinker and when he was drunk he became violent and abusive towards both Alice and Gloria.
“Sounds like you’ve had a difficult life with him,” John said.
“You might say that,” Gloria replied. “For the first few years alone, it was extremely difficult. Chuck was never an easy man to live with and he made it as hard on me as he could. Gloria was only a teenager then, so it was doubly hard.”
“You seem so self-assured and together now Alice.”
“Thank you, it took me quite awhile to get this far but I am doing great now. Real Estate has been good to me and I am considered one of the best agents in the office. I have been able to buy this house and provide Gloria with a good education. With practically no help from her Father. Of course therapy did help me more than I can say.”
John was getting a little uncomfortable with the conversation and tried to change the subject. “An attractive woman like you must have a lot of men friends,” he said.
“Not as many as you may think.”
“Really, I find that surprising.”
“Well I am very particular about who I go out with and when you get to my age the pickings are very slim,” she joked.
“You certainly don’t look that old Alice. What are you, about forty?”
Alice laughed and said, “try adding another ten or more years to that and you would be closer to the truth.”
“You are joking,” he asked?
“Not a bit,” Gloria said.
John was strongly attracted to Alice and learning that she was closer to his age, he thought that he may have a chance with her after all. So he jumped in and asked her if she would go out with him to dinner sometime.
“I’d like that John,” she said and kissed him impulsively.
He was a little startled but not so much that he didn’t respond by kissing her back.
On the drive back home John’s thoughts were filled with Alice and how soon he would see her again. He was in a rosy glow and wasn’t paying as close attention to the road as he should have been. So as he rounded the corner near his house, he didn’t notice the oncoming car until it was too late. The crash was so loud it brought all of the neighbors who lived close by out onto their lawns. One of the neighbors called 911 and they arrived soon after. As John lay bleeding on the side of the road, with the red lights swirling around, the thought dawned on him, that he wouldn’t be able to keep that date with Alice.
To be continued.
As the ceremony began, John felt a lump in his throat as he watched Gloria take her vows. She was radiant! Paul looked happy but very nervous, which was apparent from the perspiration shinning on his face. The lace and chiffon dress Gloria wore clung gently to her slim figure. For some reason she seemed very vulnerable to John. He noticed tears in Alice’s eyes and could hardly hold them back himself.
At the reception Alice introduced him to everyone as Gloria barely had time to kiss him on the cheek and greet her other guests. If it wasn’t for Alice, he would have been completely lost. When he was getting ready to leave Alice came up to him, clasped his hands and told him how happy she was that he came. She even suggested having lunch together at a future date. He didn’t know what to think of that, but he agreed.
A few weeks later John was just settling in to life without Gloria. Oh he’d probably see her now and again in passing but it would never be the same. The phone ringing startled him out of his musing. He picked it up and said, “Hi this is John, it’s your nickel.”
“Hi John, this is Alice, remember me?”
“Of course how are you doing Alice,” he tried to keep the surprise out of his voice.
“I’m fine John, I was just wondering if you would like to go to lunch next week?”
“Why um, well, I, that is yes that would be great!? Where would you like to go?”
“There’s a little Italian place not too far from where I live, called Giovanni’s. The food is great if you like Italian.”
“That sounds good Gloria, I love Italian, what day and time shall we meet up?”
They set the date for the next Wednesday about one o’clock, and they would meet at the restaurant. John was flushed with excitement over the thought of meeting Alice for lunch. He couldn’t fathom why he was so excited. ‘I must be getting old,’ he thought, ‘it’s only a lunch with Gloria’s Mother. I don’t even know if she has a husband or she is just trying to be friendly to a friend of her daughter.’
Still, Alice was an attractive woman and still young and she seemed to like him. When Wednesday rolled around, John was still trying to calm himself down. Alice was more his age he thought and that calmed him some. He told himself Alice either had a husband or a boyfriend. ‘Attractive woman like her wouldn’t be just out there. Would she? Here I go again’, he thought. I got all excited about Gloria and where did that get me?’ So as he was driving to the restaurant, he had himself under control and just said to himself that he would have a nice lunch and that was it.
Giovanni’s proved to be an ideal meeting place for Alice and John’s first date. It was very informal, with red and white checkered tablecloths and candles burning on each table. Even sawdust on the floor to make it more authentic. John ordered the best red wine they had and Alice was impressed. The food proved to be delicious and since they both were good eaters they ordered more than they enough food. So they each had doggie bags when they left. They had chatted about mundane things during lunch since they really didn’t know each other. And the afternoon passed pleasantly with no glitches by John due to nervousness. In fact they got along great and especially for a first date, if that was what this was, he thought. Alice invited John back to her house for coffee and dessert. And of course he accepted. He wasn’t ready for what happened next though.
To be continued.
As the weeks went by, John helped Gloria fix leaky faucets, squeaky doors and other odds and ends. They met for breakfast frequently and he looked forward to their time together. On one of their breakfast get togethers, Gloria seemed more animated than usual. “John I have the best news, wait until you hear,” she blurted out.
“Out with it, you look like you are going to burst if you don’t tell me soon.”
“Well, I didn’t tell you but I met someone a few months ago, his name is Paul. We’ve been dating pretty frequently lately and he asked me to marry him.”
John put his coffee down slowly. His heart was hammering in his chest. He understood now why people used that expression. He tried to stay calm as he answered her. “Why that is wonderful Gloria,” he said. “From the look on your face I’d say that you said yes.”
“I certainly did, he’s a wonderful guy John and I know you are going to like him when you two meet. I want you both to be friends, just like we are.”
“I’d like that also, when is the big day going to be Gloria?” John’s heart was still hammering but not quite as much. He might be able to pull this off and not say anything foolish like, ‘I thought you and I might be thinking of doing the same thing.’ After she told him the date, he mumbled, “Gloria, what do you think of that?” He managed to keep his thoughts to himself. John’s appetite had strangely diminished and after Gloria left, he sat there sipping his coffee and gazing into space.
Gloria and Paul had decided to get married right away of course and John found himself wishing he hadn’t agreed to attend the wedding. He had met Paul and liked him well enough but considered him an interloper. He knew it was silly to feel this way but couldn’t seem to help himself. He rarely saw Gloria anymore except occasionally at the laundromat and then she usually rushed off afterwards, not wanting to go for coffee as they usually had done. She was busy with her wedding plans.
The big day arrived and John found himself standing at the back of the church. After arriving at the church, he paced nervously in the vestibule while waiting for the ceremony to begin. He was still thinking of leaving when a pretty blonde woman came up to him and asked if he were John, Gloria’s friend? “Why yes,” he was a bit startled.
“I’m Gloria’s Mother, Alice, why don’t you sit with our family?”
“That would be nice.” John was struck by her resemblance to Gloria.
“Gloria’s told me so much about you and all the help you’ve given her.”
“I was glad to help, she is such a great person.”
“Well, I hope she’ll be happy with Paul, they haven’t known each other very long.” She sounded anxious.
‘Funny I was thinking the exact same thing’, John kept these thoughts to himself.
John wondered where Gloria’s Father was but hesitated to ask. Gloria never talked about her family much in all their time together. And as other relatives and friends started arriving, Alice was swept away in a maze of chiffon and chatter.
To be continued.
After they had finished their laundry and since Gloria had no car, John drove her to Marino’s Market. He then drove her home and insisted on helping carry in the bags of groceries.
“Come in John and have a drink. It’s the least I can do after all you have done for me today. Unless of course your wife is waiting dinner for you at home?”
“No, I am a widower Gloria. My wife passed away. I usually cook my own dinner now” he said.
“Oh, I am sorry John, I didn’t know, please excuse me.”
“No way you could have known now is there?”
“I guess not, I just feel embarrassed, shooting my mouth off like that.”
“Let’s just start out all over again and yes I would like that drink. I am a bit thirsty.”
“Okay, would you like a beer or some coffee?”
A beer sounds fine right about now. That grocery shopping is thirsty work, don’t you agree?”
Gloria opened two beers and after putting her groceries away, they settled down on the couch with their beers. By the time they had finished two glasses each, dusk had settled in. John was feeling warm and mellow. He hadn’t felt this good in a long time.
They talked for a long time. John about his wife and their hopes and dreams, now cut short. Gloria listened sympathetically.
When he was leaving, Gloria gave him a peck on the cheek. He didn’t even remember driving home, he was in a rosy glow from being with a pretty woman and sharing intimate things. And then, the kiss or peck, was enough to put him in this rosy glow. Meeting Gloria had brightened his life and he hoped they would be friends. She was young, in her mid thirties, he guessed, but who says an older man and a young woman can’t be friends? She probably has lots of boyfriends.
The next morning John rose at his usual 5 a.m. and walked two miles, then breakfasted at Martha’s Breakfast House. Upon arriving there this morning, who was sitting in his usual booth but Gloria! She called him over and asked him to join her for breakfast.
“This is a surprise,” he said.
“I just started coming here since I get up early and do a run and then get showered and dressed and go out looking for work.”
“Well, my lucky day,” he was beaming as he took a menu even though he didn’t need one. “What looks good?”
“”Well I’m having hotcakes. What do you like?”
The waitress moved in and filled their coffee cups and took John’s order of two eggs, over easy with the works. He had a big appetite after walking for two miles.
“You have a very hearty appetite John,” Gloria said.
‘Yes and I better cut it down as I am gaining a few pounds and a pot belly.
“Oh you have nothing to worry about, you still have your boyish figure. Were you an athlete in school?” Gloria sounded interested.
“Well I did play a little baseball in high school and then again in college, so I manage to stay in shape, even if I only walk now.”
They ate their breakfast and chatted away as time was passed. Gloria jumped up and said that she had to get home and get dressed to go on her job hunt.
“Anything I can help you with Gloria?”
“Oh no thanks John, but it was nice having breakfast here with you. We will have to do it again sometime.”
“I would love that,” he said.
John continued his walk home in a very good mood indeed. He really liked Gloria and he hoped more than ever that they could continue to see each other. He would enjoy having someone to eat breakfast with, even if only at a diner, and maybe go other places with. One never knew. He wasn’t all that old.
To be Continued
The washers and dryers were humming noisily when John walked into the Laundromat. It was easy to see that he wasn’t accustomed to using a laundromat by the furtive way he was acting. He picked out a washer after much searching, loaded his clothes and then discovered that he did not have any detergent and had to search for the machine that dispensed it. Everyone in the place could have cared less whether he knew his way around or not, they were all wrapped up in their own thoughts. After a few trips there though he became a regular and knew his way around as well as everyone else.
It was on one of these trips as he was gaining confidence in himself that John had a strange thing happen. John always liked children and there was certainly enough of them running around. A little blonde girl of three years old came up to him smiling and started a conversation. “Hi, I’m Sandy,” she said. “Hello Sandy, my name is John, what do you do for a living?” Sandy just giggled and proceeded to tell him her age, her mother’s name and anything else he wanted to know.
John was beginning to enjoy himself when a blonde woman rushed up and grabbed Sandy, gave him a dirty look and rushed the child away. Her admonishment to the child could be heard throughout the laundromat, “I told you not to talk to strangers especially old men.” John was startled and a little sad. After hearing that, he wasn’t as friendly to children unless of course he knew their parents.
John was a tall man in his early sixties and his hair was mostly gray but he had a thick and lustrous head of it. He had green eyes that sparkled when he was happy which wasn’t very often now that Janet was gone. He had a slim build although he had a hearty appetite, but that had diminished lately. Since Janet had died a year ago, he was in a transition period. They had planned to vacation in the mountains this year. Renting a cabin and fishing was his idea of heaven, but Janet’s illness had come on suddenly and now his life was dramatically different.
He had thought himself a strong man but lately he began to doubt that strength. He had not planned on being alone and it was a strange, new experience for him. The house loomed before him like some vast unknown expanse. The days were endless. Then one day at the Laundromat, as he was loading his clothes into a dryer, a young woman next to him was struggling with a large basket of clothes as she tried to lift it onto one of the shelves. It slipped out of her hands and the clothes went flying onto the floor. The girl looked embarrassed as she stooped to retrieve her laundry. John went to her aid and after the clothes were picked up and placed in the right machine, she sat down beside him. He offered her a cigarette and after accepting she thanked him profusely for his help.
“I’m new in the area,” she said. “Is that so?” John was never much of a conversationalist.
She was so young and pretty, he was wondering why she even bothered talking to him.
“Can you tell me which market has the lowest prices close to this area? I’m kind of new in town and still have to get a car. So I am kind of limited in where I shop” She seemed to be embarrassed to admit this.
“Medina’s Market is only a few blocks from here and has the best buys and good quality, I can show you where it is.”
“Oh thanks, that’s very kind of you but I wouldn’t want to put you out.” she retorted.
“No trouble at all. After we are done here I’ll take you there. By the way what’s your name, mine’s John.”
“Gloria.” was the answer.
“That’s a pretty name, it suits you.”
To be continued
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO EVERYONE
This recipe is one of the all time favorites in our family. It has been handed down over the years in my family, starting with myself. I made them most every Christmas even before I had children. And then for years after I had a family, and we adopted the tradition, I continued to make them every Christmas. And now my children are making the cookies for their children and grandchildren. I got the recipe from my sister Anna originally, who got it from her mother-in-law, who was of German descent. And probably goes back a long way from her mother also.
This recipe is for half the original as the original is for so many cookies that you would be up all night baking otherwise. Depending on when you started of course. I recommend you start in the morning. Giving you a head start and with lots of energy. And also I do it in spurts. After everything is mixed and a ball is formed, you can let it sit (covered with a tea towel) in frig until you are ready to do the rolling out, cutting out and baking. They are certainly worth the effort though as you will get praise galore. Well you really should even if only for having the stamina to complete the job!
So onward we go with the recipe:
1/4 lb. butter or margarine
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup milk
1 1/8 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. (or more) Anise oil. (I like a lot of Anise oil so I use more)
3 cups (sifted) flour
Cream butter/margarine and sugar together. Butter/margarine should be soft. Add egg yolks, milk and Anise oil and mix. Add (sifted) flour and baking powder, one cup at a time and mix. Form into a ball (or two balls if you like) and refrigerate for 1/2 hour. Roll out to desired thickness (I like mine thick so they take a little longer to bake). Cut into shapes with Christmas cookie cutters. Grease baking sheet once and bake at 350 degrees for 5 – 7 minutes, the tops will be white but a little brown on the bottom.
Icing: Beat egg whites that you separated and saved from yolks, until stiff. Add 1/2 box confection sugar, (1) drop Anise oil, ((1) pinch of salt (optional). Enjoy! Don’t put icing on until cookies are cool. You can also put the colored sprinkles on top of icing if you prefer.