Well, if you ever had a chance to read my story about my abusive father then you know my father had a bad habit of over indulging…not with food but with women. Oh, no, he could never have just one (at a time). Typically, he’d juggle three and sometimes four at a time. However, I must admit, I think three was his limit. Beyond that number he couldn’t keep up. The worst part of having more than 3 was keeping your name straight. Listen, I was his daughter and it wasn’t unusual for me to call him on the phone and have him hesitate because his first thought was, “Oh, no, which women is this?” AND it wasn’t unusual for me to make a snide remark like, “Daddy, it’s your daughter, MaLea…no need to shit bricks…I’m not a girlfriend.” AND his response was often laughter. See, he thought it was cute…funny. He may have thought I was teasing him but I wasn’t. It made me mad. I was mad that he treated women that way. However, he saw my comments like that as teasing. He loved that kind of teasing because it boosted his confidence. If he had more than one women, then he felt important, legitimate and loved.
OK, so the point of this was not to bash my dad’s bad habits. I’ve voiced my opinion about him and the man he was in my other stories. Instead, I want to talk about the women he dated. Folks, it was an interesting bunch…as interesting as my dad was. How did this come about? Why would I want to write about them? Well, I thought about this when I was driving my kid to school this morning. On the way I passed the house of one of his ex-girlfriends. I’ll call her Fay. I lived with her for a short few weeks during the summer of 1989 before heading off to Israel for a year long program. Through the years I ran into her at coffee shops and grocery stores. Sometimes when I spoke to her she’d be nice and at other times she was not. She was a character but so were all of them. Listen, they had to be to date my father. F.S was older than Daddy and gosh, she has to be in her 90’s now. I saw her at the grocery store just a couple of weeks ago and she really looked good. No, I didn’t say hello to her because the last few times I talked to her she seemed mad at me for what Daddy had done to her. Grant you, they had a right to be angry but certainly not at me. So, I just watched her from afar and thought about the first time I met her.
Fay was not Daddy’s first girlfriend…nor was she his last. I believe he met her through the sister of another one of his girlfriends. Yep, that’s right. Any opportunity he had to add to his collection, he took it. Fay was spunky and always suspicious of Daddy. However, she seemed to really like that about him because she continued to date him. As Daddy did with all of his girlfriends he moved in with them. First, just during the weekends and then during the week. He moved fast and furious and the women were taken by him. Fay was no different in that way but her personality was. When she disagreed with Daddy, she told him. AND, she would tell him in a way that was not the Southern, sweet, gentile womanly way. Oh, no, Fay would stand up to Daddy. Of course when I met her I was suspicious. I was suspicious of all of Daddy’s girlfriends. After all most of them he dated before I was even 18 years old and not one of them showed me any interest in me. AND none of them ever questioned why daddy was spending time with them rather than with his daughter (who was underage). And so, many of them I had no respect for. Fay was no different. I liked her spunkiness though. She was the first one who really stood up to Daddy and I liked that. However at the same time she had a meanness about her. Underlying I often felt she was a lot like Daddy and I didn’t like it. She was not warm and caring. She in many ways was the male form of Daddy. Needless to say, Daddy’s relationship with her was a tumultuous one. In fact she eventually got her own children involved and they had to call the police to keep Daddy away.
Most of Daddy’s girlfriends were women of the generation where the men were the head of the household and they were to be their supporters. They could speak up but there was an educate in how that was done. For example another one of Daddy’s girlfriends lived on a farm in the country. I’ll call her Carmen. Her farm was her husbands (who died many years prior) The land had been in his family for many years. She loved it out there and so did Daddy. He loved it. There was a lake that Daddy loved to go fishing. He loved the rough and tough way of life and Carmen’s home provided that for Daddy. Now, Carmen was much different than Fay. Yes, they were both Southern women but that was the only thing similar. Carmen was the stereotypical upper crust, Southern woman. She catered to her man…after all it was the woman’s job to keep the house, make the meals and provide whatever else that was needed to the man. And she did that and did that well. In fact when I was 15 years old and Momma had just died a few months before, Carmen told me I was a disappointment because I was not caring for my dad as I should have been. She told me it was unfortunate that my mom had died but it was time I stepped up to the plate and did what I was supposed to do. Oh and what was that, folks? Carmen was mad with me for not cooking and cleaning for my dad. She felt since I was the woman of the household then that was my responsibility. I’m sure y’all can guess that she and I did NOT hit it off. Meanwhile, my mom would have been furious. My mom who was of the upper crust Southern society raised her girls to move beyond the expected mold of women. Most of all to never conform to societies pressure of what women were supposed to do. And so, Carmen’s advice to me did not bode well. We were like oil and water for sure.
Earlier on many of Daddy’s girlfriends were Southern, upper crust, traditional women. They were women who kowtowed to their men and placed them of pedestals. AND of course Daddy LOVED LOVED that kind of girlfriend. There was Anna who had two homes. One in the city and one on the beach. Daddy having grown up on the beach loved Anna’s beach house. He thought I’d be impressed with her because of it but he always failed to remember I hated the beach. Anna would invite Daddy out there and on occasion invite me too. I HATED it! It was so boring! Daddy and Anna would encourage me to go out to the beach while they disappeared together somewhere. I’d be alone for hours never knowing where they were. I could have done that at home. Of course Anna was another one of Daddy’s traditional girlfriends. One thing about Anna, though, was she made it clear she was never going to marry Daddy. See, her husband left her lots of money but only if she didn’t remarry. And so, she had no interest. Plus, she knew Daddy was not going to provide for her. That always made Daddy angry.
Around the age of 21 Daddy began expanding beyond just the Southern, upper crust girlfriend. I’m sure it was more because he ran out of those available. One women was a fashion designer. She was interesting. She was always picture perfect. Daddy loved her. She was from California and was someone of a free spirit BUT damn was she business minded. She was the first one of Daddy’s girlfriends to have been younger than him. The others had been older. Her name was Venus and she clearly didn’t need a man to be successful. Daddy saw her as a challenge, I’m sure. He just knew he could “tame” her. But, eventually, she left and moved back to the west coast. There was the German woman who I can’t even remember her name. She was overly friendly. I remember once sitting in her living room and next thing I knew she was massaging my feet. OK, that was weird! And this was the woman who openly took showers with my dad while I was visiting. Then, there was the post woman. Oh my gosh! She was infatuated with Daddy for some reason. By the time he was dating her I lived on my own. She would call me at 2 and 3am crying and asking me where was my father. Yea, I made it clear to her I was NOT Daddy’s keeper. The most ridiculous girlfriend was the one who was 30 years younger than Daddy. And not only was she 30 years younger but she also had a young child. Yea, that was insane and I knew that was never going to last. Daddy was not kid friendly and the woman was my sister’s age for G-d sake! Of course that was short lived.
Daddy’s last girlfriend was a very lovely Japanese woman. Sadly because of her age and culture she endured a lot of Daddy’s abusive behaviors. She wasn’t one to speak up or stand up to him. However, she was the only one of Daddy’s girlfriends to give me a wonderful gift. After Daddy died she contacted me so that I could finally have my childhood photos and items that were my moms. Things Daddy used to threaten me if I didn’t do as he wanted. And even though this girlfriend defended Daddy’s behavior and mourned his loss in spite of his treatment to her, she was the only one who thought of me. For that I am very grateful.
This morning just as I was finishing this, I looked up Fay on the internet. I was surprised to see she had died this week. As I read her obituary all I could do was smile and chuckle. The words that were written totally exemplified the woman she was. And so, I think it is apropos that I end with her. I did not include her name and took out certain specifics about her to be respectful to her family. May all those who dated my dad who are no longer with us rest in peace. AND if you happen to see him? Maybe this time stay clear and find someone else!