Family Moments

Published on October 20th, 2017 | by Richard Black


What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name?
It’s a fair question to ask and certainly a rose would smell like a rose regardless of the name it’s been given. Then again if roses were called “Ass Flowers” or “Toejam Specials” I imagine they’d be a lot less popular. Sure they’d smell like roses but I’m willing to bet that people would be a lot less willing to buy them on Valentine’s Day.
Names matter and I think my old man would agree. Once, when I was fourteen or so, he called my stepmother “Claire” which happened to be my mother’s name. The result was spectacular and if you can ever witness a similar event from a safe emotional and physical distance I’d highly encourage you to do so.
Unfortunately my siblings and I weren’t so fortunate. Around the time my stepmother Carol’s face turned an alarming shade of purple we retreated into the crawl space and lived on hose water and Saltines until the fallout had passed some three days later. Most of us even made it out alive.
Now that I’m a parent I understand my old man a bit more when it comes to names. I’m a piece of him after all, a chip off the old block, with some of his strengths and many of his faults. My old man loved my mother and he loves his wife but through an unfortunate coincidence both of them share a name with a hard “K” sound as well as a synaptic place in his heart. I should be so lucky.
I’ve only been married once and I can’t manage to keep anyone’s name straight in my family. A few days ago I referred to our daughter Darcy as Iggy, our former dog’s name, and he’s been dead for six years. I’ve also managed to refer to my wife Laura as Iggy which drew a pretty confused look from everyone in the room. Fortunately Laura is an understanding woman who just assumed that I’d had too much cough syrup or paint thinner and the evening continued in only moderate discomfort.
Looking back on my childhood I’ve come to realize that I was much too harsh on my father. After all what’s really in a name? At first I assumed I just wasn’t that important and, then later, that the old man was in some advanced stage of dementia. After time however I gave up trying to place blame and simply went by whatever name he’d mention. For years I responded to “JohnDaFritArtPeteRich” as his mouth tried to catch up with his brain. He had five other children to tend to and as long as we made eye contact I assumed I was the intended subject of his verbal fits which was, more often than not, me.
If there was a problem in our family the odds were that I had something to do with it. Typically it was something relatively harmless although inconvenient. I once left a frozen burrito in the microwave for two hours rendering the house uninhabitable for a few weeks. Another time I tried to find out how many coins our vacuum cleaner could pick up. I’ve forgotten the precise number but the answer was “not enough to replace the circuit breaker panel”.
Occasionally my interests had more…profound outcomes. During my Junior year in high school I managed to get myself and my brother expelled for writing an underground newspaper. It was a challenging time for the family and particularly so because my father had just announced that he was running for mayor.
I was a bit of a handful and I like to think that there wasn’t a causal relationship between my father’s inability to remember my name and my youthful endeavors. I haven’t become a titan of industry or, really a titan of any sort, but ever since I’ve been married I haven’t had to live in my mother’s basement and I think that should stand for something.
I can only hope my daughter Darcy fares as well. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to put Iggy to bed and take Darcy out to tinkle.

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