I never got a chance to meet my paternal grandparents. Thatdad's father died when Thatdad was 7 years old. His mother died a month after my parents were married. I never got to know them, and they never got to watch me grow, compare how similar I was/am to Thatdad. Remark at how I would carry on the family lineage.
My grandmother was a remarkable person, or so the stories go. Widowed with two small children, she managed to be one of the first women in our family to pursue secondary higher education. She was a full time nurse, a full time mother, and had to manage with one person what many struggle to do with two.
Which is why I am so proud to share a part of her. My middle name is her first name. And so I carry a part of this strong matriarch with me wherever I go.
In the Jewish tradition, we don't name after the living. It's superstition that if two people share the same name, the angel of death might accidentally take the wrong one, and by naming your child after a living relative, you are almost inviting such an occurrence to happen. In order to honor a relative, Jewish families often use the first initial of the deceased loved one, and pick a new name starting with that letter. My family has obviously taken that a step farther, by using the exact name.
When I was pregnant with Thatbaby, we knew that we would continue this tradition started by my parents. And it was very clear what middle name we would use if Thatbaby ended up being a boy. My father yearned to be a grandfather. At our rehearsal dinner, the night before our wedding, he took me aside and told me that Thatboy and I had the night off, but after we were married we should start trying for a child right away, so he could have a grandchild. We didn't. One of my few regrets in life is not giving my dad that small wish - to be a grandfather.
Thatbaby shares his middle name with my father, because in a small way, I hope that he will carry that piece of his heritage with him, the way I carry my grandmother with me. He is already developing my father's sense of humor and ability to charm his way out of tight situations. And I hope that he will share other attributes, like my father's strength and determination. I hope he grows to feel proud of this legacy he maintains, and feels a connection to a man he will never get the chance to know. A man who will never throw him in the air, or take him to the movies, or fill him in on the intricacies of comic book lore. Because sometimes, a name is more than just a combinations of pleasant sounding syllables.