I often get asked about the unusual spelling of my name. More and more, it seems, I meet others with unusual names too. Recently I met a terrific one.
At a board meeting I was leading a few months ago, an invited guest began his presentation. As he did so, one of his comments caught me off guard. “I decided to change my first name to honor my dad, Edgar.”
He once had a nice ordinary name: John. Now his preferred first name is John Edgar.
Ever since I can remember, I wanted an ordinary name. Initially, my name was ordinary: L-A-R-R-Y. That’s the way the nurse spelled it on my birth certificate until my dad asked her to change it to its present spelling. Why he did that remained a mystery until many years later, after I had named children of my own. It was then, and only by the winsome coaxing of my wife, that he disclosed that I was the namesake of a fellow comrade he served with in World War II.
Up to that point, I had thought often about changing my name. In high school, I even tried to get my friends to call me “LJ” (my first and middle initials). But that was short-lived. LJ doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue and I was not enough of a tough guy to enforce it. Nor did I have a middle name to tell the world, as many kids do when they favor one name over another. I was given an initial only; presumably an abbrievated reference to my father’s name, Joseph.
I’ve since come to accept the peculiar spelling of my name. No longer do I correct people when they pronounce the “e” long as in “peer” rather than “pear.” With a rimshot you might say I’ve grown less leery. What once was forefront in my thinking slipped into the subconscious. Until I met John Edgar.
The commitment he demonstrated to honor his dad by taking on his name struck a chord with me, particularly because he adopted such an untrendy one. Naming one’s prodigy is among the most profound things a father does. And John Edgar returned the favor, not by naming his father, but by carrying his dad’s unconventional name everywhere he goes.
While I have no plans to change my name, John Edgar’s action made me think less about shedding the vestiges of my dad’s influence and more about amplifying them.
How will you honor dad this Father’s Day?