Ann and I worked at the same small family firm in Red Bank, New Jersey, back in 1971/2. I was a kid still fresh out of high school. Ann from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, was a working mother in her mid-to-late twenties with three sons . She had left school to marry too young.
Ann had to work outside the home because her husband had deserted the family when he decided that he did not want to be married to her anymore. He had no trouble with driving by to show the boys a good time with fun and games. It was those boring things like the rent, food, the utility bills, and medical care that he could not be bothered with anymore.
Boys will be boys, and Ann had her hands full with her three. They ranged in age from about ten years old down to about four years old. I think it was the six-year-old that had lost an eye because he had been playing with a pen knife when he shouldn't have. It was the game where the boy throws the knife into the ground, and the knife is supposed to land with the blade in the soil. In his case, the boy missed completely, and the knife handle bounced back up from the concrete sidewalk. The blade landed in the child's eye.
Ann seemed to feel that the accident somehow made her an unfit mother. Her estranged husband and his attorney did everything they could to rub salt into that wound to drive Ann over the edge. Yet Ann was the one who was pulling the load for two parents to the point of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion.
You could see that Ann was under so such stress that she was about to break completely. Sometimes she trembled. At one point she had to choose between gasoline to drive that old wreck of hers to work or food in the house.
One morning Ann approached me quietly when the others were not around during break to ask if I could lend her some money until payday. You could see that it pained her to have to ask a relative stranger for anything. I pulled the twenty-dollar bill I had out of my pocket. I had been trying not to break it until closer to payday, but I also had my basic necessities covered until payday.
"Here take it."
"I'll get it back to you on payday."
"Don't worry about it. You have enough on your plate to worry about. There's no rush. My father deserted the family, too. I know what it's like."
"But you're going to a new job after next week. I'm no deadbeat. How will I find you?"
"Like I said, don't worry about it. Someday if you have the money to spare, just pass it on to some other woman who needs it or put it in the plate at church. Whatever works."
A few years later, we bumped into eachother when I was visiting Red Bank.
"I still owe you that twenty dollars."
"Don't worry about it. You needed it. I had it. It was a blessing to be able to give it."
Back in 1971/2, twenty dollars represented ten hours gross wages at minimum wage in a small factory reeling toward bankruptcy. It was never about the money.
If a man wants to be respected as a man, the first thing he needs to do is act like one, not just prance around like some kind of wannabe. Children need fathers, not "baby daddies".