What I Should Have Done

WELL, it’s all obvious now, 50 years later, isn’t it? What I should have done on the Sunday night was to call my stepmother Helen.

“Helen, can you come over to our place on Bayview right now; Penny’s hysterical. I need your help.”

Helen knew Penny and had been in our apartment recently. She would have jumped into her big, maroon Oldsmobile and come over immediately. Her apartment at 276 St. Clair Ave. West was only 15 minues away.

Helen was nobody’s fool. She would have pushed and probed until the truth came out. We don’t know if it was really bad, blackmail, or just very bad, sexual harassment by a superior at work. Either way, I would have gained an ally.

Helen and Dad didn’t have a big apartment, so she likely would have called Maureen, Penny’s stepmother who lost her husband four months earlier. Her condo on North Kingsway was only 30 minutes away from Helen’s apartment.

I’m going to take you over to Maureen’s,” she would have said. “You need rest and I’ll give you a sedative so you can sleep.”

Helen could be quite intimidating so I’m sure Penny would have stumbled out of my apartment, still crying, gone down the stairs, out onto the street and into the big car at the curb. Minutes later she would have been in the arms, and the well-appointed surroundings, of her stepmother’s  condominium. A Valium with a mug of coco and it would have been dreamland.

The two stepmothers would have talked it over, over a rye and water.

Now I’m putting myself in their position. Even in the 1960’s an older married man preying on a younger attractive female was frowned on, even on Bay Street. The pair would have told Penny in the morning she’d been victimized and that she needed to resign from Dominion Securities immediately, and get an attractive settlement.

Otherwise, we’ll take the bastards to court.

I can just hear Maureen saying this, can’t you? And Helen would have added. “I’ll take your resignation letter down personally, this morning.” I can just feel how angry these two women would have been.

I would have arrived at 9:00 o’clock looking dazed. Maureen would have made me a coffee. Penny would have come into the room and fallen into my arms.

Oh, I’ve been so stupid,” she would have cried. “You’re never going to forgive me when I tell you what I’ve done.”

I would have said: “Yes, I will. I love you. It’s all over. You don’t have to explain.”

It’s funny how strong this image of something that didn’t happen is in my mind. I: can see the condo, see the light coming through the south-facing windows, see Penny in Maureen’s dressing gown, see Maureen sitting, concerned, on a Louis XIV chair.

Penny would have buried her face in my chest. You can feel it too, can’t you?

What’s the old Jewish saying, “Too soon old, too late smart?” Penny’s gone, Hugh too. And so will we, sooner or later. Here’s the lesson from this screw-up on my part; when you’re in trouble, get help. If the trouble involves a woman, get an older woman’s help. Don’t be proud. Act promptly.

Easy to say now, isn’t it.