In 1942, I had never met my Aunt Ann or my four first cousins. They’d moved in the 30’s from Jacksonville to Los Angeles, where Uncle Stuart worked for Walt Disney. Among other things, he provided the voice for the hunter in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Every so often, Aunt Ann would send photographs—the children in the swimming pool on a sun-scorched day; the boys lined up in front of a stucco wall, grim-faced, like murderers facing a firing squad; deformed sister Jean, curled up in an overstuffed chair, listening to the radio, hopelessly in love with Nelson Eddy.
Then, with the War ginning away, we got a letter from Stuart, Jr., the oldest of the boys. He was in the Army Air Corps, was stationed in Orlando, and wondered if maybe he could drive over for a visit. My mother wrote back and urged him to come any time. The following weekend he arrived, on a Saturday morning.
He was tall, broad-shouldered, and carried himself like a soldier. He had the kind of face you wouldn’t notice in a crowd; but if you analyzed it, feature by feature, you’d conclude he was handsome. I remember him, sitting on the sofa, back straight as a broom handle, saying next to nothing.
My mother would ask him questions and he would answer in words and phrases rather than in sentences.
How was the family?
Was his father...