I struggle remembering names. It’s always been that way. The common ones, like Dick, Jane or Tom, I remember easily. Mary, Bob or Sue aren’t that hard to recall, but other than the old standards, whenever I do get into unfamiliar territory, such as Darrin, Syrrhia or Tabatha, I go blank.
Rhyming names just double the trouble. Vera and Myra sound the Tira. Triple sounding names are next to impossible. Lenny, Penny or Benny makes me think of Jenny. And those are only first names.
Surnames, unless they’re Smith, Miller or Jones, drive me just as batty. For the life of me, I can’t keep them straight. And that’s probably why I find myself staring blankly at others, pretending to listen. I either agree or disagree, and then end it with, "It was so nice seeing you again. Do keep in touch." This way I’ve done my part being as sociable as possible. After all, I could hardly hold my own in conversations with others after forgetting their names. Over time, who knows to what I might have agreed?
My cardiologist’s name, Otfried Niedermaier, is a disaster for me to remember. As a result I just call him, "Doc."
In parochial school, I was most fortunate. Rarely did any of us ever have to address the nuns by their chosen vocational names such as Sister Michael Marie, Sister Mary Humilius or Sister Maria Annunciata. "S’str," sufficed. The only name I’d ever been able to recall is the obligatory moniker, Mary, or some form of it that all nuns have.
The same held true for priests. It was never Father Kealey, Father French, Father Gustin, Father Schwarnowski or Father Bierster. A simple, "Yes, Father," worked nicely. You just had to make sure you didn’t address a Monsignor, or, Heaven forbid, even a Bishop, as ‘Father,’ or else you’d be spending a week in the confessional and saying a lifetime of rosaries.
Had I gone 12 years to public school instead of just three, only the good Lord knows how I might have addressed my teachers. "Yes sir, Mr. Swartzbaugh. I finished it last night." Or, "No, Mr. Scott," I might answer, "I don’t think it’s quite that bad."
"Son, you need to remember my name is Mr. Talesancio." the teacher might have replied. "Mr. Scott retired last year."
I also have an unknown penchant for annihilating monikers. Many readers may recall Tammy Proctor, past editor of The Suburbanite. I once called her Tamantha. When she asked why, I used well-known, common, home-grown logic, explaining, "Since I’m sure Tammy’s a nickname, then if Amy’s the nickname for Amantha, and Sammy’s the nickname for Samantha, why wouldn’t Tammy be the nickname for Tamantha." Over the years it stuck and I think by now she loves it.
During the three year courtship with my wife, I called her, Honey. People use to comment on what a lovely and loving couple we made. Little did they know that I couldn’t remember her name.
Consequently, one of the biggest fears in my life was getting married. Not because I was afraid of the commitment. Nor did I ever get a bad case of cold feet. But rather when the preacher asked, "Do you, Frank Weaver, Jr. take this woman Peggy Ann Jolly to be your lawful wedded wife?" I feared most of all I’d stand there like a numbskull wondering to whom it was he was referring.
When our daughter was born, I had always liked the name, Wendy. It slowly grew on me after I first read the book, "Peter Pan" by James Barrie.
"You want to name our daughter after a hamburger?" the wife charged. "Why don’t we just get it over with and call her Burger Queen?"
But once she connected our new born with the name Wendy from the Peter Pan novel, "Honey" finally relented.
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