Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sometimes one has to wonder what some Division of Motor Vehicles clerks put in their coffee in the morning! It is as if someone has given some basement-cured drug that helped him or her remain in  Dr. Jekyll’s Mr. Hyde  state for a full eight-hour shift! After meandering in serpentine lines at the local DMV I had finally made it to the final gate where I carefully and anxiously confronted the Cerebus of the DMV! The rights of passage attaining the golden prize of a renewed driver’s license were about to be consummated. This bureaucratic beast   gave a burning gaze at my previously pre-approved documents and said, “Your name is different on certain documents. You can go no further!”  (Which meant that I would not have a renewed state driver’s license!)

Scrambling for an answer or believable excuse I recalled how I had changed the spelling of my first name from “JOHN” to “Jon” while in my rebellious years and then converting it back to “John” when an illumination sparked a spiritual metanoia. I lied to this administrative guardian of the gate of hell “it was a clerical error made on my marriage license application years ago and I never changed that mistake.”

I avoided explaining that back when I was born children seemed to be named after grandparent’s .So being a good mother my mom selected John after my paternal grandfather. My father’s family story was that Jadec (my grandfather) was reported to be a descendant of a King John of Poland in the 16th century, who was infamous for being the hero saving the Holy Roman Empire from an invasion of the Ottoman Turks! Rumors grew to mythical proportions of how the Viennese people celebrated their salvation from the Turks by creating a pastry in the form of a halo in support of King John’s saintly effort.  They say that pastry was the birth of the bagel.  However, this King had fathered a child out of wedlock and had an illicit affair while married. Maybe that’s why he was never “sainted”.  (Nice namesake huh?) But I realized that this King spelled his name “J-A-N”, not the common everyday

The real “A- Ha “ moment sparked as I became aware of how my good ole bachelor uncles had nicknamed me “Janko.” Coincidentally it was also the same nickname given to my ancestor King John was given as a boy.  Somehow my connectedness to this ancestor was being confirmed.

Yet, it is Janik that is a familiar form of Jon in Polish as it is an affectionate term loosely translated as “Johnny.”  But then Janko in Polish was also a different adaptation of the name Jon. Its been said that this nickname of Janko is an affectionate term loosely translated to mean “John the Troublemaker.”  That ancestor king was noted as being so mischievous even in his early days and that he was called “Janko.” Hmmm, again I felt a sense of connectedness! So without further forethought of any possible legal implications fifty years hence I changed the spelling of my first name to “J-o-n. “ I thought that this would be some affirmation of my roots and distinguish me as being a little different from my contemporary “Johns.” Like I needed the help of a new sir name to do that!

 So before I could further qualify my remarks about the different spellings of my first name to this formal control freak DMV clerk she retorted instantly, “No, that’s not it. You se on some of the documents you have a middle name, Francis, and on most documents there isn’t any mention of a middle name. “

I danced, bobbed and weaved and the clerk finally said, “well I’m just saying…you might run into a problem with social security.” Quickly I answered “Why do you say that as I am collecting social security now.” She took my picture, where my smile looked more like a grimace, produced the picture and handed me my new license and I think I heard her say “See ya in four years - Janko!”

But the truth be told is that over the years I have been given several other nicknames or labels by others. During a Catholic ceremonial rite of passage called confirmation, Sr. Philomena of the Sorrowful Sisters of No Mercy asked what name I had chosen as my confirmation name. I was proud as I thought I had put some serious thought into this exercise and selected the name Dismas, the good thief on the cross next to the crucified Jesus. While hanging on the cross next to Jesus the thief attests to his belief that Jesus is the Son of God and then Jesus says to the thief   that he will be with Jesus in Heaven that day. I believe that Dismas is the only person other that Jesus who is mentioned in the scripture as being in heaven. I thought that this was not too shabby for a thirteen year old to figure this out. But Sister countered that Dismas was a mythical name and not a saint. Catholics were supposed to select a name of a saint (a lot happens in thirty years as Dismas is now a saint) and therefore I needed to select another name. Immediately I shouted “St. George”, the hovering nun responded just as quickly “Why? “ and quipped, “Because he was known as the dragon slayer.” Janko rides!

During my first year of high school I accidentally won a persuasive presentation competition in taking the pro side of the argument that the Confederate States of America separated from the union over preserving states rights (too long to argue e that perspective here and I don’t want to give ant Tea Party members any further ammunition,) In reality I recall being more obstinate than persuasive.  As a result of this victory my friends labeled me “Reb. ” The girl I was dating at the time thought the nickname was “cool” and meant something else. She gave me the Shirelle’s single “He’s a Rebel” as a Christmas gift. Reb , Janko …at least I was consistent.

When working in Copperhill, Tennessee some of the locals  labeled me  “The Reverend” as I seemed to preach more than speak with them.  Of course the sports teams I coached called me “coach” and some students I have taught called me “Captain” (but you will have to watch the movie the  Dead Poets Society or read “Oh Captain, My Captain” by Walt Whitman to understand that nickname.) They also like to call me “Mr. S. O. B.”(I thought it meant “soft ole bugger.”)

But out of all the nicknames and names I have been called and have chosen for myself I prefer one. It is a name that makes me melt every time I hear it said. It is a name that reminds me of how an imperfect pilgrim can be blessed(by the gift of my two daughters) It is a name that I would change my first name to if I could legally. Out of all the names and nicknames I have been called it is a name that describes how I would like to be remembered. Every time I hear this name called out by someone else I cannot help but to look up and believe the person who was saying the name was calling me. I know many others who have been called the same. However, the one name I love to be called is “dad.” 

I wonder how the DMV clerk will react in four years if I come in with a new sir name – “Dad.”

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
    -.(Isaiah 43:1)


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