If I had been given the chance to choose a name for another human being I am quite certain it would not have been a task lightly undertaken. My instinctive thought is that the name would have to be one which captured a specific flavour not just some annoying spelling. For me a name not only symbolizes something but also forecasts a disposition, preferably along the lines of refinement and certainly nothing associated with country music or bohunks.
My own names appear to have been chosen for a very simple reason, a bow to my mother’s brother (Larry), my father’s father (George) and my father (Bill). These choices hardly qualify as particularly creative and indeed I have often mourned that I hadn’t some more dynamic name like Travis, Quintin or Beverly. Thankfully however I have not been saddled with some preposterous name which sounds like a coined corporate name such as Corwin. I have had to settle for mere family names.
My Uncle Larry was my mother’s youngest sibling. From what I can gather Larry was full of mischief. He always had a twinkle in his eye. He apparently conducted the usual brotherly taunts of my mother and their elder sister, Lucille. At what I suspect was a young age Larry moved from the Northern Ontario town where he grew up to the United States (Detroit) and joined the US Army. I believe he served in a US campaign abroad (though sadly his obituary contains nothing about his life other than the names of his immediate family). In addition to having given me my first name, Larry appears to have imparted to me his love of food and automobiles. The very first recollection I have of Larry is of a visit he and his wife, Mary, and children, Michael and Denise, made to Canada in a shiny new Pontiac Bonneville convertible. It was an exceedingly large and powerful automobile and I knew even then (I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old) that the machine held great attraction for me. Larry, like his wife and daughter, was spherical. They exemplified everything that is vulgar about over-indulgent Americans (though Michael escaped the condemnation). I was always amused that Larry had moved to the United States because his father originally came from Massachusetts. I have a notorious affection for the Americans so I am happy that there is a strain of the breeding in my blood. While Larry came from a very modest background, he married “well” and lived “large”. His children never graduated much beyond middle class but they were kind and generous people. I have a small insight into the family because we visited Larry’s son’s family in the Detroit area when my cousin Michael died in 2013. At that same time, Larry was obviously declining rapidly and we never saw either him or Denise. They were reclusive with grief. Our entire time was spent with Michael’s immediate family.
I never knew my grandfather, George, much better than any other relative of my family. I only met George on a couple of occasions at most. He was tall with a short grey crew cut. I can’t remember a thing he may have said to me. He was an entrepreneur (wholesale fish, maple products and silver foxes) in Fredericton, NB where he raised a family of seven children in a large house on the St. John’s River. He invested heavily in Canadian Pacific Railway and he too liked large automobiles (Packards). When he died he owned about forty watches, four of which I inherited, including three pocket watches, two gold, the other sterling silver. My father’s side of the family was clearly the more well-to-do and it became commingled with another notable family in the area when my father’s sister married into it. My grandfather had likely inherited some wealth from his own father as there is a small park in the Province named after him. It appears that I am the only “professional” in the family.
As odd as it may sound I knew my own father only slightly better than my uncle and my grandfather. Because I went to boarding school so early in life I effectively left the family at age 13 and never returned. My father was a career military man (RCAF) and diplomat (attaché), sober and not what I would call an exciting personality. His interests (golf, fishing and gardening) were never shared by me. If I could avoid being with him, I did. Communication between us was always strained. I have good reason to believe he resented my uppityness which while philosophically excusable nonetheless spoke to the deep lack of appreciation which we each had for the other. As the saying goes, we didn’t have a lot in common.