we do what we must . . .
August 6, 2011
a long time ago,
a mason from ireland left
and came to the united states.
he briefly settled in brooklyn, married
a woman who’s name has been lost,
and upon having a son, john,
finally settled in corktown,
detroit’s oldest neighborhood.
this man was named stephen martin,
my great great great grandfather.
upon my birth,
my mother decided to give me his name,
tying me forever to a man without whom
i would never have made it here.
but in what can only be called the metaphor of my existence,
she misspelled it.
and so my ancestor’s name,
already anglicized from the irish,
had now been americanized
in a city once owned by the french.
i’ve often heard that there’s a lot of power in a name.
and this misspelling, i now feel, was a kind of curse.
nothing i seem to do ever follows a proper path;
everything must have an accidental twist,
one based on false certainty.
what this has meant for me is that,
while my life won’t ever be what one’s should,
it has been one that i wouldn’t change anything about.
not one thing.
would i trade finding the “knock” my family left behind in county kerry,
or petting a panda bear while he at an apple in chengdu,
or walking the early morning streets of paris at christmastime,
or burning in the himalayan sunshine outside the potala palace,
or a shockingly thorough olive oil massage from a burly greek woman on the coast of santorini for
a wedding ring?
i can’t say as i would.
but i have often wondered
if marching to the beat of my own disco
means i won’t get the chance to pass along a name,
misspelled or otherwise, if,
in twenty years time,
i’d regret not
sometimes i wonder if passing on a name is important to me,
or important enough to me.
i’m not sure, but
in what can only be considered the craziest of signs,
it turns out that my name will live on,
just not in the usual form.
that email was a solar flare during a starless moment for me.
you’re timing couldn’t have been more impeccable.
i’m allergic to alpacas.
this is my life.