You may know the song, “It’s so nice to have a man around the house”; the song has been performed by Della Reese, Eartha Kitt, and Dinah Shore. Mother took those lyrics as her motto. She did not like responsibility, so she figured out that if there was a man around she could always blame him for anything that went wrong. Also, since she did not like to be employed, the man would be responsible for paying the bills.
Her third husband Tom was a man of few words who she met under “mysterious circumstances” after moving to California. In fact he hardly ever said anything to Abby and me. Our Dad used to beg us to engage him in conversation and to take notes so we could share the story upon our return.
Abby and I were usually so disgusted by Mother’s behavior that we never had the time or energy to attempt to begin a talk fest with Tom. He was a loner who enjoyed his own company (along with a case or two of beer each night) and had learned to stay out of our mother’s way.
Abby and I found his ability to consume her food quite a testimony to his iron stomach. Mother would usually prepare a batch of her “fine cooking” in the early afternoon, then leave it on the counter – unrefrigerated, unheated, and uncovered – to await Tom. At some point in the evening, several hours after the meal had been set out to fester, Tom would proceed to ingest it like he had not eaten in weeks.
I think that, ironically, the amount of alcohol in his system served to ward off the various bacteria, germs, and other toxins in mother’s cuisine.
Upon our return home, Dad would ask about Tom and we would reluctantly say he didn’t say anything noteworthy. Dad then said he could engage him in a lengthy conversation in five minutes. We would laugh about the mental picture and thank our lucky stars for our dad, a man worth listening to.