Judy and Merril in happier days.

Judy and Merril in happier days.

Well, let’s not draw this out any longer than we have to. Judy asked if I wanted to buy the house back from her, I said yes, Judy went off roaming somewhere, I don’t know where, and my new Significant Other, Carol Metcalf Ulf Stanton, and I began moving ourselves in.

There are a fair number of details about that period that I’m not sure I remember right in the area of what happened before which. One of those things is where the kids, Merril and Ann, were at that point. I think most probably that at least at first all three of them were with Carol and me. (Three. Judy’s Merril, our Ann and Carol’s Karen, daughter of her marriage to L. Jerome Stanton.) And for a time there, I don’t think a very long one, Judy and I were tolerating each other.

Then we weren’t.

We disagreed over how we were going to share Ann’s time, somewhat civilly at first, and then very uncivilly. I don’t know how that would have worked out, because it was around then that Danny Zissman appeared at my front door, and he was the bucket of gasoline that set our fires roaring,

Danny was Judy’s first husband, Merril’s father. Unknown to me, he had been having his own troubles with Judy, over custody of Merril, and he was fed up. He had been talking to lawyers, he said, and, on their advice, he was about to sue Judy for Merril’s custody. He thought he had a pretty good chance of winning, on the evidence, he said, listing fifteen or twenty things Judy had done, but he wanted to make winning a sure thing. Which it would be if I would join him with both of us suing Judy at once.

Oh, that was the siren song, all right.

I wasn’t at all sure Danny’s own case was as strong as he thought it was. His list of Judy’s misdeeds included some pretty trivial stuff. But there was also some stuff that might sway a judge, and I could see that the two of us suing her together would help both our cases … and, oh, wouldn’t it be nice to have this aggravation out of the way forever? So I mulled it over and then I said I’d join him.

I think there is too much suing of people for one thing or another, and I didn’t really look forward to all the bad stuff that was sure to come. I have only very rarely done that sort of thing in my life. Even now I would like to avoid suing that wretch for his vicious book if I can. I had those same feelings about joining Danny’s suit. But I got busy, and began to prepare for testifying.

The bad things began to happen right away.

I was going to have to present witnesses to things Judy had done. Cyril Kornbluth and Mary Kornbluth agreed to testify for me. So did Jim and Virginia Blish and some others, but right around then Judy, too, began the search for witnesses, and the effect was that, between the two of us, Judy and I had broken up some old friendships, a couple of them irreparably so, and half the science-fiction community of the area was hardly speaking to the other half.

Bad stuff? Oh, it got worse. I’m pretty sure deliberately, Judy’s lawyers began to play a delaying game. Every time we got close to an actual trial they asked for, and got, a postponement. And the rancor that had attacked the sf community didn’t get out and done with in a matter of weeks. It dragged on for well over a pretty unpleasant year.

You may be wondering how it’s possible if one side (mine) had all those people who were willing to be witnesses for him, and all the witnesses on both sides were good friends who had been close to the subject of Judy and me for a long time, then how could the other side get all these other people to testify for the opposite?

I wondered a lot about that, too. All I can say is I think Judy has always been extremely good at making people trust and help her. (I’ll give you an example of that later.) For example, Danny’s and my case took a big hit when at last a judge asked Merril and Ann, both now old enough to answer such a question, which parent they wanted to be with, and they both said their mother.

I don’t know what was going on with Merril. One of the worst things about the fighting is that I no longer spent any time with my first little love, Merril. Merril did not have a good life. She married very early, she had a troubled time as an adult, and she finally committed suicide. I wish I could have tried to help her through some of those troubles, but I no longer had that privilege..

About Ann, though, I’m pretty sure I know what happened. Ann did sometimes stay with Carol and me when squabbles had reached a temporary truce, and she always said she wanted to go back to Judy on schedule. I think Judy had made Ann think that Judy needed her more than I did.

After Carol died, we held a memorial service for her with as many of her old friends as we could find present to mourn. Ann was the principal speaker. “Carol,” she said, “was always a better mother to me than Judy ever was.”

And I think she was, but that’s not how the custody suits came out.

The judge didn’t exactly find against me and Dan Zissman. He sure didn’t find for us, though. He said he was going to keep any eye on us and might reach a permanent decision later on, but for now he wasn’t going to disturb a situation that both daughters preferred. Dan went home, and I never saw him again.

Judy and I stopped serious squabbling after a while, and we shared Ann fairly amicably for a bit.

Then, in 1968, the war ended. We didn’t end it. It ended itself.

What happened was that in 1968, the Democratic National Convention came to Chicago, with results that were really bad for both the Democrats and the city of Chicago itself and its police. A few of those old-timey police, whom I believe are better described as thugs and monsters, had begun their police careers as specialists in beating up “Reds.” Reds, in those days, were defined as people who protested the police practice of beating up union members, and a fair number of those old-time brutes were still on the force. When large numbers of citizen marchers and protestors began to show up those old Red Squad leg-breakers came out, took charge, dosed the protestors with tear gas and beat them bloody with clubs.

And every last rotten thing did was caught on camera by the hundreds and thousands of newsmen and women who were there to cover the convention. And by Judy Merril. Nobody could doubt that the Chicago cops had gone brutally ape. Everybody in the world had seen the pictures. It was a long time since her days as a Yipsil, but Judy didn’t forget where her fundamental loyalties lay. She rushed down to Chicago to help where she could; she wound up in a little clinic set up to help the beaten, gassed and brutalized; she saw exactly what was happening, and it shocked and horrified her. As soon as it was over, Judy took the first plane to Canada, where she became known as the American woman who hated America the most.

And I was almost as shocked and outraged as she was.

It wasn’t worthwhile to hate each other any more. It no longer made sense to fight over who got the kids, because the kids were growing up fast and making up their own minds on who they stayed with. The custody wars were over, and slowly, haltingly, Judy and I at last began to talk.

To be continued.

Related posts:
Judith Merril, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6


  1. Ann Pohl says:

    Dear Father — I have avoided comment up to now as I did not want to disrupt your telling of your own story. However, it is ethical to ask someone if that person agrees to being quoted in a public document like this one. I did not give my consent to having details about myself represented in this way in this document. I will not address differences in perspective that have arisen from previous postings on your blog. However, I must speak to Part 7 (this one).

    Carol was an extraordinarily nurturing and kind person, and without any doubt my best parent of any gender in that regard.

    Judy’s ethical character and commitment to social justice and community engagement, and sense of spiritual wonder about the world, were and are an inspiration to me always.

    I feel blessed to have had two such exceptional women as primary influences in my life.

    Also, Judy went to Chicago BECAUSE I had been assigned to go on behalf of the Eugene McCarthy campaign. She tagged along to make sure I had a parent present to look after me if I ended up arrested or anything, as it was our 3-person team’s task to get anti-war posters into the democratic-machine-run convention hall, and the machine was pro-war at that time. I appreciated having her there deeply and it was one example of a time when I felt she was did a great job of mothering me.

    RIP, Judith Merril — a fine person and an even more amazing global citizen.

    My sister Merril, who loved you as much you loved her, did have a rocky start in life. It is unfortunate that you lost all contact with each other. You would be pleased to know that Merril was very happy in her latter years, and had reconciled with Judy. At the time of her death, she was extremely physically ill, due to a progressive, serious immune system disorder.

    RIP Merril Allen. You were much loved and respected by your family, friends and community, who miss you to this day. (This December you would have celebrated your 68th birthday).

  2. Margo Anderson says:

    I was interested to find mention of your friend, L. Jerome Stanton, because he was my grandfather. The marriage ended shortly after my mother’s birth in 1932, and she didn’t meet him till she was grown. She remembers him telling her she had a half sister, but never know her name. She would very much like to make contact with Karen. If you know her whereabouts, could you please contact me, or give my email address to her? Thank you!