Respecting the nymI am particular about names. When people are introduced to me, I generally ask what they like to be known as. If they're Michael, I might say, is that Mike? It stems from my belief that we all deserve freedom. You should be free to be who you want to be. If I respect you, I will call you by any name you wish to be called by. I call it "respecting the nym". (Your "nym" is what you are known as online. I've been Dr Zen as long as I've been online, and I've definitely had times in my life when I've preferred being Dr Zen to David, and times too when the opposite is very much true. Yet I've retained the nym, and have not surrendered my anonymity -- even though I'm not very anonymous when it comes down to it.) It was easy for me, for instance, to call Zenella by her full name when she asked me to. (We had always known her as "Zeni", I guess, and we actually called her Zenella so that she would go by Zeni.) It wasn't a big deal for me. I just switched her mental label.
Some boys have been teasing Naughtyman about his name. Which makes me sad because I love his name. It is deeply meaningful to me, redolent of my ideal of masculinity, aspirational and hopeful. But I told him he could be known by his middle name (although he is named after a deceased cousin and it would be awkward for some of his relatives if he did go by that name), or he could call himself Thomas (his favourite name for the obvious reason) or any name he chose. But he decided he would be Naughtyman after all.
As I've blogged boringly in the past, I never cared much for my name. I'm nothing like a Dave, and, with the exception of C, no one here who actually likes me calls me by it (although just about everyone in the UK calls me Dave, so it's not like it bothers me). But David is ballsachingly formal. Because there is Dave, anyone who goes by David is announcing that they are pompous. Still, most people who know me in Australia call me David.
Some, though, call me Davey, but only my sisters and Mrs Zen--and recently, to his credit, M. I suppose they are the people who know me best, and they know it's what I call myself (although, let's face it, my email addy is a big hint).
Why do I like it? There's a simple reason. It's because my granddad called me Davey and when I was a kid, I loved my granddad to bits. I cherish his memory to this day, because he never did anything to make me sad, bar ask me to kill him when he was in his last days (I was too cowardly, I'm ashamed to say, and I've always regretted it, because I do not at all believe it a sin to end a life that is already ended).
My granddad was not my blood relative. He was my dad's stepdad. I never knew his biological dad. He left my nan when my dad was a child. She drove him out, and when I found out the truth about all that, I lost respect for my nan. But in any case, my step granddad was my real granddad. He loved my dad and he loved me, in his own idiom, without reservation. Unlike my dad, he did not mess around with love. If he loved you, he loved you, and you knew it. He was a generous man, willing to share his last crust, and prided himself on owing nobody anything. He never had a penny in credit in his life, always rented, no mortgage, and lived simply. I stayed with my grandparents when I was in my late teens, for some months, and his life had a simple, but dignified, rhythm. He would fix up the fire, eat breakfast, walk the dog, put a few bets on, buy as much beer as his budget would stretch to, generally a fourpack, and relax and watch the races if they were on telly, reading--he read everything--and listening to the local radio.
He was courteous when he met people in the street, but treated intimates with a rough humour that it was easy to understand was a show of affection (well, easy for me and for J, who adored him, but not so easy for my mum, who was hurt because he teased her for being a snob, which she was sure he was not). When he saw me, he would say "what you doing, smackhead?", dragging out the "k" as Scousers do.
I remember when we were kids, he would visit with our nan. They would have saved up money and would treat us to ice creams and sweets. I loved it when they visited. Granddad introduced me to horse racing and communism, for which I thank his memory, because he showed me that the former was a challenge worthy of a man's time, and the latter was just an expression of our desire for fairness. He did not believe the world was just, but he believed it ought to be.
I remember he would come into our rooms before he went out to the pub and he would tell J that he was going to "clip out for a slider", and she would beg to come. Today, Zenita loves to sip my beer or wine, and she is just like J in a lot of ways. I only hope that she grows to be as beautiful a person as J, albeit perhaps better able to cope with the downswings a little better. Everyone in our village who liked a drink knew my granddad. He had more friends in my home town than our dad.
I think he was a good man. He seemed that way to me. He did not build anything, grow anything, change the world or do anything that left much lasting mark, but for all that, he never diminished the world he lived in, and no one would say, I'm sure, that he had not on the whole been a positive for the world. What more can any of us want to be said of us?
When he died, I was proud to read his favourite poem at his funeral in his memory, and I hold it dear to this day, because it expresses the simple credo that fuelled his life, and because I am like him, mine too:
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!