Those growing up years I was known as “JJ.” I liked it and in my 40’s named my first cat the same. “Jago” was tested on me during grade school but my basketball star brother already trademarked it so it was lost to me being the one unable to picket the basketball out in a lineup of other balls. In high school the “o” was dropped and so it became truly and uniquely mine for four years. “Jag” had a nice edge to it which I’m told I have so I guess it fits.
Radio days began and “Jagodensky” did not have that rock jock sound for a sixteen year old so it was my basketball star brother who easily finished my moniker with “Gerard,” my middle name; so “Joe Gerard” was my identity during my radio years. Two of my sisters were nuns so they both became a “Virginelle” and a “Mario.” Intended to be saint’s name, I haven’t found either although I know the meaning of the first name. (Isn’t the name “virgin” enough without its French sounding ending? “I’ll have the Virginelle Duck please.”) My basketball star brother’s first name is Martin but we all called him Mike (his middle name) and he married Vicki who everyone called Mary (her middle name). Perfect marriage? (TV News Flash: “Martin and Vicki robbed a bank early this morning,” while we’re all at home saying, “It couldn’t be them, they’re Mike and Mary!”)
There are only two people left in my world who call me “Jag” and I miss that high school handle. I guess it’s the edge. Ordination became a problem for my aging dad who since birth called me “Joe” but then became “Father Joe.” I told him quickly that this cannot continue and he, in spite of his religious reverence, complied. My mother, taught in that same tradition, seemed to have no problem with keeping the former epithet. At my first parish an elderly woman entered the sacristy and introduced herself and told me that “I’ll be your grandmother.” I told her that “my grandmother died.” I guess that’s the edge. I somewhat regret that statement.
A fundamentalist-employee stopped me in the hallway my first week of work and informs me that he will never call me “Father.” I replied, “What’s your point?” It’s in the Bible somewhere. Other employees whom I’ve learned have no middle name because of their poverty call me now “Gerard.” “Terms of Endearment,” I have no idea but I suspect. It serves as a unique connection between us as “Jag” was in high school. It is theirs alone. I like that. Pseudonyms have been applied to actors with strange names and authors who wish not be known, for whatever reason. I’ve been a victim in a victimless crime of encountering people. I love it.
My first name has now become “Father.” It’s okay, I stop when I hear it when it said in the hallways and Chapel. “Joe” is the extra bonus but not necessary. When the third name is now said I am impressed that someone even knows my dad’s last name.
“Hey you” works once and “I forgot your name” happens to both of us. On vacation I’ll hear, “You look like someone” and I think to myself, “I sure hope I do, me!”
Names are important if want someone’s attention or to create a connection. I’ve grown through many names but always remember my dad’s phrase, “Just don’t call me ‘Late For Supper.’” Good advice.