The person with the most nicknames might be my mom, which makes sense since Dad has known her longer than almost anyone. As far as I can tell her first nickname was “Snake,” short for “Snake Hips.” She was really slender when she was young, and I can remember him calling her that when I was a little kid.
At some point, probably when I was in middle school, he started calling her “Opal.” Mom did not like this nickname, as its origin is a funny, but sexist joke that goes something like this: An old Kentuck and his buddy were sitting around a campfire drinking moonshine and telling lies while watching the comings and goings of Opal, the Kentuck’s wife. Opal was frying fish over the campfire and otherwise waiting on the men hand and foot, whenever her husband would call her over. “Opal, bring us some more whiskey!” “Opal, come pull off my boots!” “Opal, come throw some wood on this fire!” After a while, the frying fish smelled a little too hot to the Kentuck, and he called, “Opal, come turn these here fish!” Opal complied by hurrying over with the spatula and flipping the fish over. They were black underneath. “Well,” remarked the Kentuck to his friend, “reckon I should have called her sooner.” Even though she didn’t like it at first, the name “Opal” stuck, and my mom learned to live with it. She is nothing if not a good sport.
“The Dowager” is another moniker that Dad has hung on my mom, probably in the last twenty years. I think he just likes the word and likes teasing my mom about getting older and the likelihood that she will outlive him and inherit the “estate.” My efforts to convince him that this nickname is illogical since he is still alive have been in vain.
In one of my early posts I asserted that my dad isn’t acquiring new material for his vernacular, but that is not entirely true. He keeps his ear to the ground and adopts new lexicon when it suits him. An example is the most recent nickname that he has bestowed on my mom: “Lady Gaga.” Where he learned about Lady Gaga, I can only guess. The Today Show? Anyway, it’s not because of her singing voice or her outlandish costumes. It’s just that my mom has dementia and is kind of ga-ga, and she’s the first to recognize that her brain doesn’t work as well as it used to. But her grand sense of humor is still intact, and she can laugh at herself, and she still thinks my dad is funny (sometimes) after more than 57 years of marriage.