013. Will Power

What’s in a name?  A lot.  Son Matthew, grandson Bryce and I are often kicking around our favorites.  We have agreed that names seem to influence us in later life.

I like, for instance, how our Chief of Medical Staff at Children’s Hospital was named Doctor Doctor and our Chief of Anesthesiology was Dr. Ether.  Matthew once had a consulting neurologist at the University of Washington Hospital whose name was Doctor Sumi.  I shiver to think what his malpractice insurance must cost.  Daughter Lisa once had a landlord from hell whose name was Dudley Bumpass.

If our last name was Power, I’m sure Matthew would have been named William.  And that’s convenient,  because will power happens to be the subject of today’s blog.

Daughter Lisa will be celebrating her 55th birthday on Monday.  In honor of the occasion, I guess it’s time to reveal to you that before she was born, Lisa was a boy, and his name was Luke.

When we were first married, for some reason my husband Gene and I decided that if we had any children, they would be named Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. I recklessly agreed to this because I didn’t want to have children and it didn’t seem possible that four such catastrophes could ever happen.

Nobody really WANTS children. Well, hardly anybody.  But what happens is that after they get here, babies have a way of worming their way into your affections.  It’s one of those unexplainable mysteries of life.

So it was that our pride and joy, Mark came into the world.  On his heels, came the astonishing prodigy we named Matthew.  And then, whoopsie,  I got pregnant again.

Whoops, indeed.  I was faced with a two-fold dilemma.  First of all, I kept thinking about that name Luke.   I have come to love it now, but at the time, it seemed to me to be a hill-billy name, like Abner or Rufus or Cletus or whatever you’d name somebody who spits tobacco and drinks moonshine.

The second issue was that if we had a boy like we agreed and promised St. Luke, we were going to have to add a fourth boy to the mix, too.  You can’t have three children named Mark, Matthew and Luke and then quit.  Those dudes come in a set.  We’d never be able to introduce our children, Mark, Matthew and Luke, without somebody looking around asking “And where is little Johnny?”

I positively didn’t want a fourth child, but to tell the truth, I didn’t have the heart to insult and disappoint St. Luke by naming the third one Jeremy or something.  The only solution I could think of was to have a baby girl.  Nobody would expect us to name her Luke, and I’d be off the hook. It would be no fault of mine.

This is where the will power came in.  I WILLED the baby to be a girl. I was keenly aware that the baby I was carrying was a boy.  Mothers know things like that.  I commenced a prayer campaign the likes of which Heaven had never been previously subjected to.  I practically overdosed on rosaries and novenas.

I also had the good sense to demand the baby’s cooperation.  Several times a day, I would whisper encouragement to the little unborn creature. “Listen kid, I know you think you’re a boy but you’re confused. You’re a girl.  Just because you’re bald doesn’t mean you’re not a girl.  You’re a girl.  That’s spelled G – I – R – L.  And listen, kiddo, on delivery day, if you come out with a wee-wee, you’re going straight back in for a refund.  I mean it.”

I may have made a threat or two.  I may have mentioned other considerations like the circumcision that was awaiting him, but whatever it was, it WORKED.  Thanks to the power of will and prayer, Lisa underwent her sex change.

It was Tuesday, September 20, 1955.  She was born on a dark and stormy night at the University of Iowa Hospital – during what must have been the worst ice storm in the history of Iowa City.  She weighed 7 pounds 8 ounces and she was all girl. She was perfect.  We named her Lisa because it started with an “L” and it had four letters.  It was my humble effort to appease St. Luke because it was the closest I could think of for a girl’s version of his name.  He must have granted his forgiveness because as Lisa’s patron saint, he has been gently taking care of her ever since.

In thanksgiving , I am making a solemn vow.  The next time I get pregnant, if it’s a boy, I’m going to name him Luke.  That’s a promise. It’s the least I can do.

And, by the way. happy 55th birthday, Lisa, and many happy returns of the day.   You’re going to love AARP.

 

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5 Responses to 013. Will Power

  1. Judy says:

    I’m shocked. Shocked that you could take so lightly a subject that has been the trauma of my childhood. Don’t get me wrong, I’m comforted that you took such time and interest (even prayers and threats) in the naming of your first three children, but mom, you named me Judy. Judy, which rhymes with Poody, a fact readily apparent to every child I ever met. How could you?

    I realize that at the time you had other priorities. 6 kids and well into your tenth straight year of morningsickness, clearly naming me was not high on your list. Seemed like a good idea to let 6 year-old Lisa name me after the baby in her 1st grade reader. I gather your response was “yeah, whatever” as you gagged and ran to the bathroom.

    If you had to name me after one of Lisa’s favorite characters, why not Popeye or J.P. Patches? Or if it just had to be someone in the 1st grade reader, why not Dick or Jane (at least they were having fun)?

    Determined to shed my moniker, as soon as I was free of parental influence, I hatched my plan to change my identity. I announced to my kindergarten teacher that my name was certainly NOT Judy, never was, and I even convinced the principal of the school to rectify this error, and my school records were changed to reflect my true name, Jennifer. Everything was going just great until parent-teacher conference, when my teacher just went on and on about how great Jennifer was doing, how Jennifer was so smart and helpful in class, how Jennifer was really the most popular girl in school and was a shoe-in for kindergarten class president… So much for witness protection.

    There had to be a way to get a better name. I refused to give up. Word on the playground was that there was this certain loophole in naming, namely, that if your parents gave you a stupid first name, guess what? You could take your middle name, and it would be perfectly legal and legitimate (a loophole employed by certain little old ladies who shall remain nameless). Problem was, my middle name is Marie, same as all four of my sisters. (I guess in the naming of kids, our parents’ imagination ran the gamut from “A” to “B.”) If I were to tell everyone my name was Marie they would no doubt laugh and say “ha ha ha, which one are you?”

    After a while I thought, maybe my name isn’t so bad, I’m named after a saint, right? Maybe she was made a saint because she cured cancer or saved little orphan birdies or something. No such luck. My namesake was beatified because she beheaded ten men. Yikes, what a role-model.

    Then came time for my confirmation. I got to choose my own confirmation name, so I chose the prettiest name I could think of, Gwendolyn. Mom was perturbed, for some reason, she has had a lifelong dislike for that name, but too bad, it was my name, ordained by god and nobody was going to take it away!

    Then when I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was determined not to repeat the mistakes of my forbears and name her after an ax-murderer or anything that rhymes with number two. Oh no, she was going to be given a name that stood for strength, intelligence, perserverence, inner and outer beauty, courage in the face of adversity and creativity in the face of chaos. In short, I named her Gwendolyn. So there.

    • Octo-woman says:

      Judy, dare I say that as I have been reading your commentary, I have been wetting my pants? At my age, you should know that now at least one of your siblings will rush out to buy me my first box of Depends.

      I couldn’t help it. Thanks for the giggles.

      From your loving mother, Gwendolyn the First

    • Gwennie says:

      Have I mentioned – I love you guys!!!!!!!

  2. Denise Fortune says:

    Hmmm….it seems you and your sister, Aunt Patty, have the same capacity for imagination.

    Disgruntling Yours,
    Denise MARIE.

  3. Linda Lewis says:

    This thing about naming is a riot. What a fine man number eight…or nine or so, would have been with the name Luke! As far as I’m concerned, you and Gene got it right with every one of the naked babies you created and look at how fine the world is becoming by all the rippling effect as each continue down the line.
    I do have a story to share about names. A friend I made though my business years ago, happened to be the grandson of THE Butcharts of Victoria. His name was Christopher. He talked about his mother, and what a sense of humor she had when she named his sister, Robin. Can you imagine what it sounded like when people asked about how her children were doing and what Christopher and Robin were up to?
    One more. My graphic artist, Gretchen, has moved to Whidbey and is raising alpaca. She asked for suggestions on names for the new ones. A brilliant friend suggested using a Shakesperean theme for names, so now they are not in want for names.

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