Years later, I asked Gen about that incident. She burst into tears and said she felt terrible about it. "But why did you stop?" I asked. "I heard something snap in your neck," she responded. That was all she said about it. I can only speculate that Gen, like Dick a couple of years before, used a child as a pawn in a power struggle. Her talent for misplaced anger erupted again. Gen was mad at Dick and needed relief from the pain and tension of her feelings. I was the child Dick considered to be "his." Dick was gone and Gen couldn't vent her anger at him. I was present and unable to defend myself. It wasn't the last time Gen employed one of her kids in this way. I don't think she ever figured out a better method of stress relief and I can only thank God and science for the advent of SSRIs.

Dick's absences usually lasted from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, but Gen carried on no matter how long he was gone. She made sure we were fed, clean, and dressed and that we got to school. If Dick was gone for too long, Gen took part-time nursing work at various Wichita hospitals. That meant she had to hire somebody to see to Susie, Becky, and me.

There was a series of women who did the job. Sometimes Gen hired them while Dick was around and working. Others came along during Dick's absences.

I remember three of them. One was a Jamaican woman (I wish I could remember her name). I cried in protest when Gen told us that our babysitter would be "colored." I gathered that Gen thought I was afraid of black people; "colored people are just like you and me," she said. The truth was that I had a sense of justice and a fundamental understanding of conditions surrounding the Civil War. I thought Gen had bought a slave.

Another was named Adelgaard, whom Gen described as a "German war bride." Adelgaard and her infant daughter, Sondra, moved in with us during a time when Dick was gone. I never saw Adelgaard's presumably American-soldier husband. He didn't live with us. Adelgaard was a capable cook, but got grumpy if you didn't pronounce Sondra's name properly.

We also had a little, fat, grandmotherly woman named Belle. Belle didn't live with us. She had a house somewhere in Wichita. Gen would load us all in the car, drive to Wichita to pick up Belle, drive back to our house, drop us all at the curb, then go off to work. Belle couldn't pronounce the plural form of words that ended in "sks," like "mask." To her, "masks" had two distinct syllables--"maskez." I thought she was on to something. It certainly is easier to say.