What’s in a name? you might ask yourself sometimes. I know I ask myself that question as I do family history work. You run across stories – written and oral – about how those with this surname are intelligent and those with that surname are stubborn. How this person is ‘just like the Deans’ or that person is ‘just like the Ivanys’.
The topic came up at a family reunion I attended last summer. My first cousins once removed were reminiscing about all those who were not there and all those who had gone before, including my paternal grandfather, Alex Dean. About how mild and gentle he was, how all the Dean men were like that once. At my parents’ 40th anniversary party my father’s youngest sister commented in her toast that my dad was just like their dad – she had never heard my father raise his voice, and she had never heard her father raise his voice.
I am not a Dean. I mean, I am a Dean, but I am not ‘just like the Deans’.
I suppose I’m more like how family lore describes one of my fifth great-grandfathers. Some people say the story is made up, but there is a family legend that says that he almost met his end in the 1800s when he got into an all-too-common argument, and the others, having yet again had enough of his mouth, tied him up and threw him into the bottom of a boat that was then set adrift. By some hope and a prayer, it washed ashore on the last little piece of land between Newfoundland and Ireland, and so that is where he settled and raised about ten or twelve children. Or so the story goes.
While I can possess a little of that hot-headedness, I have learned to control it most of the time. Someone once told me that I had a very quick temper. I told them that actually I have a very long temper – it takes me a long time to get angry but when it goes, it goes.
But this progenitor of mine had another important trait that I also seem to have inherited. Resilience. The ability to take something, no matter how bad it might be, and turn it to something good. The author Brandon Sanderson writes in one of his fantasy books how curses and blessings come in pairs. If temper is my curse, then resilience is my blessing.
In my church, we call each other by the terms Brother and Sister. The local leaders are called Bishops or Presidents, volunteer positions that one does not volunteer for but agree to accept if asked, if that makes sense. Local leaders, depending on the needs of the area and the type of unit they preside over, generally hold these positions for three to five years; area leaders for five to ten years. Instead of calling them Bro. Smith, for example, we call them Bishop Smith or Pres. Smith. Even after they no longer hold the leadership position, it is customary to continue calling them by those terms.
Which brings me to my husband.
Back home, he is known simply by his first name at church. I have watched people walk down the hallway, greeting person after person with ‘Good morning, Brother’, and then they reach my husband and it’s “Good morning, S.” It doesn’t happen when we go to church in Newfoundland or when we visit other congregations in our travels. But it happens in our own congregation and in his former congregation. No judgment here. Just an observation.
Now we find ourselves overseas in a place where he was a local leader many years ago. And here, he is still called President. His name is revered here. He is a legend. The people love him. He is greeted with smiles and cries of ‘Ah! President!”
He’s the same person here as there.
All in a name, I guess.