We have written quite a bit about my mother’s third husband Tom. At one point he wanted my sister and I to become magicians and make her disappear. Dad was quite fascinated with Tom and wanted us to engage him in conversation. Since my sister and I were always on edge when we were around my mother, we were not in a state of mind to start a conversation with a man we just didn’t understand.
Why didn’t we understand Tom? Well, to begin with, we couldn’t understand the attraction. To know my mother for any length of time was to be submitted to her wrath and rage. Most people (well, those with any measure of self-esteem) would get away from her as soon as was humanly possible.
Of course, sometimes Tom gave as good as he got. On one occasion when I was visiting for a holiday, my mother asked Tom to turn down the stereo. He got up, walked over to the stereo, flipped the sound off and snarled:
That low enough for you?
He also was known to be in the middle of a conversation when his favorite television program came on, and he would just turn his head toward the TV set and say:
which would be the last sound you would hear from him for one hour.
On one occasion, Aunt Marty tried to tell us about her view of their marriage:
I think it’s a marriage of convenience.
My sister asked her:
What are you talking about?
Aunt Marty explained:
Well, Mary and Tom probably don’t have sex.
Shocked, my sister replied:
Oh no. Please say no more.
We often laughed about the Marriage of Convenience, but like most things with our mother, we turned it into the Marriage of Inconvenience.
The next thing we couldn’t understand was Tom’s lack of financial skills. He was a very poor money handler and so my mother would take care of his paycheck, giving him a five dollar weekly allowance. Having my mother in charge of your finances was similar to putting all your money with Bernie Madoff: you were never going to see your funds again.
Lastly, my sister and I were puzzled by his devotion to my mother’s cooking. He told us he could not eat anything unless she had made it, which was a chicken-fried shock since she was no Paula Deen. He also professed that she was a great partner, which just goes to show that there is someone for everyone even if they are crazy and abuse alcohol and drugs and other people.
I guess for our mother Mary, the third time was the charm. She married Tom and began managing his finances, and I think that the two of them were fairly happy. Tom died of cancer about ten years ago, but my sister and I still have many of his paintings to remember him by. He was no Michelangelo, but Mother was no Martha Stewart.