Man throws phone out second-story window after wife refuses to speak English | tracey folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by family members, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

Although my parents have been married for sixty years, it is not my father’s first marriage. His first marriage began and ended less than one year before he married my mother.

Sometimes, the second time is a charm.

My father married his first wife in the early 1960s. They came from different ethnic backgrounds and spoke different languages.

Somehow, when it came down to their hours-long marathon arguing sessions, they both spoke the same language.

He frequently heard her complaining to her friends and family on the telephone in her native tongue. Although he couldn’t understand a word she said, he knew she was complaining about him.

My father talked with her about disliking it when she talked on the phone in a language he couldn’t understand, and they made an agreement that they would only speak English in front of each other, even if they were speaking with other people. Neither of them spoke English fluently, and English was neither of their first languages, but that’s what made it neutral.

Shortly after they made their agreement, my father heard his first wife speaking on the phone in her native language. He had a strong sense she was complaining about him again.

“Remember the promise you made,” he warned her. “English only.”

She continued to shout into the phone; he couldn’t understand a word she said.

My father took the telephone out of his first wife’s hand and tossed it through the open kitchen window. Since it was the 1960s, the phone was tethered to the wall by a long straight cord, and a long tight curly cord likewise tethered the handpiece of the telephone to the body of the phone.

Once he threw the telephone receiver out the window, the long curly phone cord stretched to its maximum length and the phone dangled above the sidewalk in plain view of the neighbors.

My mother was one of those neighbors. She knew all about my father, his first wife, and their explosive marital disagreements that anyone could hear from the street below their windows.

According to my mother, that telephone dangled on its curly cord for two full weeks until the landlord finally demanded one of them reel it back in through the window.

My father refused.

The landlord disconnected the phone service, and my father’s first wife had to use a payphone down the block for any of her calls.

Eventually, my father’s first wife moved out and divorced him. My mother married him shortly thereafter.

I’m not sure if my mother was his second or third choice for a wife, but I know that she was the only one who would put up with his shenanigans for as long as she has.

They’ve been married for over sixty years now, and I can’t imagine either of them being married to anyone else, even when they make each other miserable.

My father still likes to tell the story of how he got rid of his first wife’s telephone. “It was the only time I ever saw her speechless,” he always says, with a chuckle.

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