In the 1950’s, when my mom was in the prime of her youth and beauty, she saw only three life paths open to her. Become a nun, be a teacher, or be a wife. As Father “B”, who officiated at Mom’s memorial service attested, right there on the alter in front of God and everybody, her blue-tinged tongue automatically eliminated her from life in a convent. She would have spent her entire career on her knees inside the confessional repeating Hail Marys and Our Fathers as penance for every son of a bitch
and shitass bastard
she uttered. She didn’t like kids much, and college was not an option financially, so she set out on a path down Good Wife Lane
Daddy #1 (The Irish Sperminator) turned out to be no Prince Charming. He worked on oil rigs in the Southwest, and moved from job to job about every six months. We lived in Texas, Louisiana, and Arizona in a hot little Airstream trailer pulled from state to state behind an aging Buick. Rumor and whisper had it that, on a scorchingly hot day in May, when the Airstream was practically melted into the oozing Tucson tarmac, Daddy #1 decided to perform an Irish Riverdance on the heads of Mommy and me. I was nine months old, probably hot, cranky, and crying, when something drove him round the bend, loop de loop, as Shirley Valentine so aptly put it. According to witnesses, Daddy #1 was wearing pointed cowboy boots at the time of his dance, thereby putting his badly broken and bloodied wife and baby daughter in the ICU.
Did this really happen or not? Can’t say, I was only a baby, and other than referring to him as “that Mick bastard shit head from hell
” for the rest of eternity, Mom refused to ever discuss it with me. I did eavesdrop when she was talking to a close friend one night when I was thirteen, and heard her tell this tale, but in much more gruesome detail. After my grandparents came to Tucson to carry us back to Nowhere TX to recover, I never heard from him again, until shortly after my first magazine cover in America hit the newsstands. Apparently Irish Daddy was into some loan sharks for bad bets he’d placed at the track, and had hired a private detective to hunt me down in the hopes that Daughter Dearest might want to come to his financial rescue. Apparently, my photo was a spitting image of him, and when he read in my cover bio that I hailed from Texas, Desperate Daddy was able to connect the dots and hired a private detective to locate me. The ignorant fool wanted an amount of money in the mid five figures and I was delighted to inform him that I only received $75 for that cover.
After my grandparents returned my mom and me to Nowhere to recover from our injuries, Mom enrolled in secretarial school. One night a rakish figure riding on a shiny black motorcycle arrived at my grandparents’ restaurant/pool hall/beer joint establishment, wearing leather, with jet black hair oiled back, very dark, very mysterious. Mama called him Pistol Britches; he called her Sugar Britches.
By my second birthday I received the gift of ELVIS DADDY, my favorite Daddy of them all!! I’ve told y’all all the good stuff about him and his crazy-assed family already
, except for the best part. After putting up with Elvis Daddy and his tarts-of-the-week for five years, Mama filed for divorce. Since he had legally adopted me, he was none too happy about only getting visitation one weekend a month. So, in an attempt to get Mama’s attention and talk some sense into her head, he did what any reasonable Papa would do under the circumstances…he kidnapped me on my seventh birthday!
To really understand this part of the story, you have to understand the time was 1959; lost kids were no big oops back then. No pictures on milk cartoons, no Amber alerts, nothing in the newspapers. Please understand Elvis Daddy meant no harm whatsoever; he just wanted Mama to see reason. I was never in the least bit scared, and I knew I’d get back home eventually. But it truly was the best birthday of my life up to that point. Elvis Daddy checked us into a hotel in downtown Nowhere with an indoor pool and room service. I got a grey leather-covered transistor radio for my birthday. I don’t remember many details but I do know he returned me back home after two days; it was probably a Friday and he had that week’s tart waiting for him, but anywhooo, it was an awfully fine birthday for a seven-year-old, but sadly, with the police involvement into my disappearance, I never laid eyes on Elvis Daddy or Cleve or Furl or Jane Nelda ever again.
So, with no husband on the horizon, it was back to Dialing for Daddies yet again. Mama was extremely proactive and decided why wait for a Daddy to turn up on her doorstep; she’d just go trawling for one. Unfortunately, she worked all day, and could only trawl at night. Since she couldn’t afford a babysitter for me, that meant I was part of her team, her wingman.
After supper, we’d head out to the military bars around town. Lots of good hunting there, Mama had told me. Regular paychecks, good benefits, and the opportunity to travel. Since kids weren’t allowed in these places, Mama would leave me in the locked car for hours; you can’t rush a good hunt. It was scary, I kid you not. So many drunk people going and coming, the blaring music and flashing neon bar lights, soldiers getting in fist fights all around the car.
Sometimes Mama would bring one of these soldiers to the car and we’d go on a field trip to the local Sands Motel, where she’d park me by the pool for awhile, while she and soldier boy disappeared. That was always really scary, because by then it would be after midnight and I had to get up at 5AM for Catholic school. I knew for sure I’d fall asleep on my desk and the nuns would whack me upside the head with those awful sticks and send me to the office to have the devil cast out. I spent more hours than I like to remember around that swimming pool, and became fascinated by how beautiful the lights around the pool were and the night sky and stars.
Strangely, with all that Dialing for Daddies Mom did, she finally met the love of her life in the most old fashioned of ways…a blind date. Her friend and housemate had just met and married a soldier, and his best friend would become my stepdad. He and my mom met; it was love at first sight, and they were married ten days later. In their 43 years together, they only ever had two fights; both were over Boy.
I was thrilled when the Dialing Days came to an end. Goodbye to the seedy bars and the Sands Motel. Hello to stability. Of all the things I loved the most about Permanent Daddy was that he liberated me from the hated Catholic school. Three years of hell was quite enough, and I entered fourth grade in public school. Life was enormously improved. Moral of this story: If you should go Dialing for Daddies, be very careful not to call a wrong number.