A friend of mine, lets call him John, decided as a young boy that he was going to change his name. He came up with something perfect, something that would last a lifetime. When he announced to his family that he would now be known as "Jolly Roger" they took him seriously. From that day on, John was merely a name for those who didn't know better, Jolly Roger had arrived. Jolly Roger grew older and became Jolly, a name family members still use today, the rest of us call him Joll.
Joll is one of G's and my favourite people, which is why we chose him to be the third little travelers Godfather. The third little traveler has him listed as one of his favourite people with a name beginning with J, which is where the two stories begin to overlap.
Fred (aka the third little traveller) has just announced his intention to change his name. He has decided that Joseph will be the name for him. Not Joe nor Joey but Joseph. The announcement was made over dinner.
"I'd like you all to know that I will now be known as Joseph"
We all gave it a try.
"Pass the vegetables please Joseph". "Would you like a glass of water Joseph". "How long do we keep having to call you Joseph, Joseph"
"Can I call you Joey, you're too little to be a Joseph" I pleaded.
"Nope. It's Joseph. I like Joseph."
"I'm going to call you Josephine" squealed the fourth traveller. "I like Josephine!"
The next morning as we were getting ready for school I made the mistake of calling for Fred. I called several times before I was gently reminded that Fred no longer lived here.
"This won't last" I said to G in a way where it was as much of a question as a statement.
And then Fred came home from school - with Joseph written in the top right hand corner of a work page.
"Mum, you'll need to send a note to school, Mrs B say's she's happy to call me Joseph she just needs to see a note from you that you've changed my name".
I am trying to be so cool about this. I keep trying to channel the wisdom of Jolly Roger's mother, but there's a beautiful silver haired man that keeps getting in the way. My grandfather was a Fred, a stoic but gentle man who entered a room with a booming "hoi hoi hoi" to let you know he was here. A man who lived in the house next door, and was as much a fixture in my life as the floral gravy jug my mother has been using forever. Beautiful, taken for granted, and relied upon.
My Grandfather had a series of strokes before he died. I was living in Adelaide when it happened but returned to visit on the weekend. In a fleeting visit that only a self absorbed nineteen year old can make, I sat by his bed while he mumbled and became agitated at not being able to express himself. My Grandmother desperately tried to translate, but it wasn't working. We could talk, but he couldn't, which is not a conversation, it's just a stream of endless words that land in amongst eyes filled with love and regret.
"If I have a little boy, I'm going to call him Fred" and when the tears ran down my Grandfathers cheeks I never really knew if I'd said the right thing. Was that too final? Were they the words that were only said to dying men. Did I terrify him that his nineteen year old grand daughter was thinking of children? I'd like to think that I made him happy, that he knew it would happen. That there would be another Fred.
This morning the third little traveller and I made a trip to the dentist. As we checked in, they asked for his name, I immediately said Fred without thinking, but then made an apology to Joseph. The dentist introduced himself.
"Are you Fred?" the dentist asked while offering a handshake.
Fred grinned in my direction.
"That's my official name, yes".
And then I realized, no matter what, he'll always officially be Fred to me.