Sunday, November 04, 2007

What's In a Name?

When I first filed for divorce, oh, LAST FREAKING YEAR, I had the option of checking a box to return to my maiden name. I didn't give it much thought at the time, as I rather liked my married name, and certainly preferred it to my maiden name (which, by the way, is very close to the screen name I use here). My (step up) father adopted my sister and I shortly after he married my mother, so our last name by birth (that of the bio dad) was changed to that of our new dad. I have had three last names in my lifetime.

I didn't opt to change it back for a couple of reasons. First, I have built my career using this last name. Second, B had changed his last name shortly before our marriage. He, too, had been adopted by his stepfather when he was young, but that stepfather was no longer in the picture. He didn't want to pass that name along to me or our future kids, so he reverted to his last name by birth. Symbolically, we thought it was cool that we were both changing our last names, and because we adopted the name around the same time, I didn't think he had too much of a prior claim to it. Third, and as I said, I preferred my married surname to my maiden name. Fourth, and kind of silly, but reverting to my maiden name bothered me - like I was negating the marriage or who I had become during that time.

I am starting to rethink some of these reasons. Mostly, I am wondering if, by keeping my married last name, I am tethering myself to B for the foreseeable future. It is an Irish last name, and I am not Irish. I no longer think that retaking my maiden name is negating the marriage. I briefly entertained the idea of retaking my birth name, but I truly can't imagine a bigger slap in the face to my dad. In any event, while I am a part of that side of the family by birth and by blood, my loyalty is firmly with the family my dad and mom created, the one where we all shared a name, at least at some point.

I thought of all this today because I got a fantastic email from my dad. My dad is a very proud alumnus of the Naval Academy, and I am a graduate of Notre Dame Law School. Notre Dame has beaten Navy in college football for something like 53 years - it was the longest winning streak in college football. I needled my dad about it for years and he would usually make some remark about ND being assholes for running up the score on weaker opponents. Well, yesterday, the streak ended, as Navy beat ND after three overtimes. My dad is in the US (Houston) for a seminar, so I left him a voice mail and sent an email, congratulating him and granting him bragging rights for the year. This was his response - I have emphasized the line I loved the most:

Hope that you don’t wish that you did not make the call. You actually tapped a nerve.

Yes we won and it has been a long time. Not one of the Navy players in the last 30-40 years has been big enough or good enough to make a Notre Dame squad. Not one and the linemen are outweighed by at least 50 lbs/man. Our guys have 20+ hours per semester and no time for leisure. ND folks likely have the minimum and can pump iron all day.

And yet, intelligence and heart do play a role and yesterday it happened. Not likely happen again for a long time. In 6 months, most of the Navy seniors will go into combat. Maybe a few Notre Dame guys will actually be earning a living.

I watched all of my 4 years as we would be in the 4th quarter, ND would be ahead by 20-30 points and no chance at all for Navy to win and yet, ND did not pull the 1st string because they had to improve on their national ranking.

Notre Dame should be very ashamed of losing and even more ashamed to their past moves to run up the score on us. I have the same feeling for Penn State.

You won’t hear me brag much about Navy football but I am very proud of them and what they stand for and the impact that school made on my life. Even when we embarrass a school like ND.

I am even more proud of you and proud that you did well there.



Norm said...

After the Willingham incident I am pretty much always rooting against ND (to the extent that I pay any attention to collidge fubarl). I am definitely happy for the Midshipmen.

I was shocked when my wife wanted to take my last name, of course I couldn't say no ;) I like your name story -- you chose it yourself, it's yours to keep if you want. And yeah, holy cow, there are good professional reasons.

cornutt said...

I still don't know what I am going to do, but yeah. Food for thought.

I was utterly ambivalent towards ND until I went to law school. You really have never attended a college football game until you've done the whole ND experience. I spent the entire first game I attended (home, against Michigan) on my feet, with my jaw on the floor.