Daddy's Gone
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 by Frank Shortt
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        My name is Tommy, I have a little story to tell and it is not much of a happy story, but somehow, I think I must tell it. Maybe it will be a help to another boy or girl sometime. It was Thanksgiving day and I noticed the unusual silence in our home. This was the day that Grandma and Grandpa would come to our house for dinner, or we would go to their house. I also noticed that Dad was packing his suitcase.
        “ Momma, why is dad packing all his suitcases, is he going on a trip?”
         “Yes, He’s going on a long trip,” she replied.
        As a ten year old boy I could not understand this at all. What could be the reason? Had I made him mad about something? Had my little sister gotten on his nerves?
       “Why don’t you go ask him” momma said as she left the room with tears in her eyes. I went immediately to his bedroom.
        “Dad, why are you leaving”? I walked into his room as he was putting his shaving things into his travel bag. Did I do something wrong to you?”
        Dad turned to me with a look of anger in his eye and continued to put things into the suitcases. Suddenly he softened, walked over, hugged me real close and began his explanation.
        “Son, there are some things that a ten year old boy just don’t understand. Mothers and fathers don’t always get along so they are forced to be apart.”
        Dad was a tall, handsome, blond man in his early thirties. He was a quiet man who held a lot inside himself. He had been staying out later and later with the explanation that he had to work late. He usually came home with the smell of beer on his breath and sometimes he reeked of perfume, the woman kind. Being young I didn’t quite put the connection together that he might be seeing another woman. His packing was the final straw that aroused my curiosity as to what he was up to.
        Mom was not that bad looking. She was also tall, and she had dark brown hair that hung in strands down her back. She was a great worker, both at home and at her job as a secretary for a manufacturing firm. I always thought that she was just a little “too quick on the trigger”. She had an answer for everything and if she didn’t know the subject she could usually fake it. She just didn’t want anyone to get “one up on her”. Dad was less likely to argue and couldn’t win an argument with mom to save his life.
        “Dad, will I ever get to see you again? I asked with tears in my eyes. I don’t want you to leave. Who will take me to my ball games? Who’s gonna take me to the movies on Saturday afternoon?” 
        Dad looked kind of pale around the mouth as he replied, “Oh, I’m sure that I’ll be able to come around to see you and Gertie very often”.
Gertie was my little sister.
        “I won’t be moving out of the state, just across town. I’m sure that your mom will have time to spend with you and Gertie now that I will be out of the way.”
       I didn’t realize at the time that this would not be the case. Mom would have to work more just to feed and clothe us. She would never stand by and let us want for anything.
        No one could ever know the emptiness I felt as dad walked out to his car, putting his suitcases in the trunk and getting into the car to leave. Every bad thing I had ever done, or thought I had done, came back to me. Gertie and I went running out to the sidewalk, me crying like a big baby and Gertie screaming her head off. She was only five and I’m sure that she didn’t get the full impact of what was happening. Dad jumped out of the car and encircled both of us with his huge arms, crying too. I don’t think I had ever seen my dad cry. This was just too much for me. The tears that fell from all our eyes seemed to bathe the sidewalk. I thought it strange that mom didn’t even come out to say goodbye. I guess that they had already said their goodbyes at an earlier time.
        Gertie was crying, “Daddy, don’t go”.
        I was saying, “Dad I just know that if you leave I won’t ever get to see you again”.
        This just added to the problem as Gertie took this to mean that dad’s leaving was permanent. What a mess this whole thing was turning out to be. Dad was leaving, his two kids screaming, mom stood by the window crying, and the neighbors were all staring at us as though we were crazy. I just wanted to crawl off into a squirrel hole and never come out again. It is hard to describe the emotions I was feeling. There was anger, hurt, guilt, loneliness, such as I had never felt, and despair from thinking that I was not to see my dad again. This was the worst day of my life.
        Back in the house I began to accuse my mom of being the cause of all the problems.
        “You should not have argued with him”, I screamed. You’re a mean mom!”
S        he just went to the kitchen table and sat down with a long sigh. I did not know it at the time but she was feeling all the emotions that I was feeling. I didn’t realize that every time dad was late getting home, she was both worried and frustrated. What was she to do?
        Gertie crawled up on mom’s lap, squeezing her as if she were also going away. She wasn’t about to let her only security slip out the door. I felt the same way, but my anger would not allow me to be tender like a five year old. I had been taught by dad to act like a man. This can be harmful to a ten year old boy when he needs to vent his emotions.
        After mom had gotten Gertie, who cried at the drop of a hat, settled in for the night, she came to me in the kitchen where I was attempting to put some Legos together.
        “Son, she began, I know that it is very hard for you to understand why your dad and I had to split up. I will try to tell you. You see, Son, sometimes a woman who works just don’t have the time to be the wife, mother, and homemaker that a husband thinks she ought to be. So the father begins looking for someone else to make up for what he is missing at home. This was true of your father and myself. After working all day I usually stopped at the market on the way home. I cooked dinner for all of us and finally got the house straightened up for the day. After that it was helping you with your homework and putting you and Gertie to bed. This didn’t leave very much time for your dad and me to spend much quality time together. I was just too exhausted to even think of visiting after all that went on during the day. This was when your dad started to stay away, later and later, then I began to suspect that he was seeing someone else on his way home. Sure enough, he finally confessed to me that he was seeing a younger woman that he had met at a local bar where he stopped to have a couple of beers on his way home. I reacted in the only way that women have reacted to this situation for all time, I asked him to pack up and leave!”
        She also told me that dad had been seeing the woman for over a year and that she had put up with it for her children’s sake.
        “I know that I am not the most beautiful woman in the world and I was not always agreeable with your father, but I never ever thought of cheating on him”.
        I was suddenly filled with pride of my mother. I was beginning to see her in a new light.
        “Your dad is a good man. He just got off on the wrong foot somehow. It will take me some time to get over what he has done, but I will not refuse him the right to see you and Gertie. I want you to respect him as your father and try to act towards him just as if nothing has happened.”
        I threw my arms around mom’s neck,
        “Mom, you are beautiful to me and always will be”.
        All my doubt of her was suddenly erased. I knew that even though Mom was not always agreeable with dad, he had no right to desert us for another woman. I knew that she would always be there for Gertie and me.
        I still have doubt, frustration, anger, despair and hurt, but as dad comes around more and more, I realize that I must love him for just being my dad. He comes to my games as often as his work allows and he gives my mom money as often as he can. The only real problem is,     “Daddy’s not here!”