Uncle Albert had an interesting vocabulary. Even when he didn’t get words right, he forged bravely ahead. When his energy was low, he didn’t have much image. When the doctor diagnosed him with emphysema, he referred to his ‘zema. Air conditioners were air positioners. He called my sister Phyllis, Phillips. I liked that one. I was Linder. I didn’t like that quite so much. My mother Kathleen was Kathaleen. He called Daddy “Willie”, his real name instead of Bill, the name Daddy gave himself once he left home. Daddy cringed every time he was called Willie. The only other person who got away with it was his mother. I wouldn’t have wanted to be Willie, either. For some reason, Daddy’s brother Parnell named his daughter Willie Carol. She was a whiny, sullen kid, maybe because of that name. It makes perfect sense to me.
On occasion, we saw some of Aunt Jewel’s relatives. Her sister, Lucille, who incidentally had married one of Daddy’s cousins, had the hairiest legs I’ve ever seen, man or woman. The wearing of seamed stockings only made it more obvious. A good proportion of the wiry hairs worked their way through the stockings, trying to escape, while the rest were imprisoned flat against her legs. I don’t know which fascinated me more, the swirling mass of flattened ones, or the wild escapees. I never got to look enough, and certainly wasn’t allowed to comment. Mother warned us off when she knew we’d see Lucille. Daddy swore her legs had gotten hairier because she shaved them! That just sounded nuts. How would hair roots know a razor threatened? He was death on leg-shaving, ascribing to the old wive’s tale that shaving made hair grow back thicker. I don’t know what planet he was from that made his daughter’s legs, shaved or unshaven, his business, but Daddy thought he was God and his wishes, commandments. More likely, he may have feared he’d be stuck with his girls forever should we sprout hair like that. Of course, Mother never volunteered the information that she shaved her legs. I guess she didn’t want Daddy to know what was in his future. Naturally, I shaved my legs as soon as I could get hold of a razor. I can’t tell you how happy I was to get away from home.
Daddy’s methods did ensure he never had to deal with adult children boomeranging
home. Times just didn’t get that hard.