I had the following conversation with my brother long before I had Bean or even met Green. This is an approximation of the conversation, it was a long time ago after all, but I can still hear my brother saying this. At least I like to think I do.
Danny – I want five kids
Tepary – FIVE kids? What?
Danny – Yep, five kids. I’ve got their names picked out too.
Tepary – Well you best get started then.
Danny – Who says I haven’t?
Tepary – Who is the lucky girl?
Danny – Who says there is just one.
Tepary – Dannnnnnnnnnnnnnnny!!!
Tepary – Alright, what are their names?
I wish I could remember all of them. I remember just two. One was something terribly irreverent, the other was Yehudi.
He was kidding.
Danny totally had the dead pan face down and he was funny as well as brilliant.
We had that conversation in the summer of 1995. We talked a lot that summer. He was in California at Stanford in a doctorate program, being brilliant. I was back working in the lab I worked in while I was an undergradutate, and taking an American Folklore class as a requirement for my teaching certificate. I really liked that class, I liked talking to my brother about the class as my project was on the storytelling of the area we were from in England. I’m afraid the class encouraged a spat of bad joke telling Danny didn’t dissuade me from and may have even encouraged. I think I thought if I could tell jokes I was more likely to get a date. Yeah, not the greatest plan, but sharing terrible jokes with my brother that summer over the phone is a favorite memory. The conversation about names, that was one of the last I had with Danny. He died 16 years ago last week. I miss him terribly.
I talked to my mum the day before the anniversary, my dad on the day. We each remember him in our own ways. Candles lit, a walk, a poem reread. Funny thing though-both my dad and I googled him. Put his name in and wanted to see what was out there. 16 years ago the web was here, but it wasn’t here in the same way. Does he still exist in our web-based world. Does it matter? I don’t know that it does, he is part of my thoughts often. Bean talks about my brother, her uncle she never knew. I wish she did. I do think it interesting though that both my dad and I independently looked online for his presence. Hilary wrote this beautiful tribute to her friend Michael. Something that put him out there in the cloud again.
I don’t want the first thing I find when I google my brother’s name is his obituary. I want it to be a conversation about naming kids, something I can imagine talking with him about now as Green, Big Mama* and I talk about it.
Yehudi, I’ve said to both of them.
They both know I’m joking. I don’t have that same ability to pull the poker face like Danny, but I say it and I can hear his voice,
“Yehudi Hughes. I like the way it sounds.”
So Mum and Dad this is for you, and me, a conversation about the naming of kids that plays in my head over and over again. I love you both very much and I’m not always very good at showing it.
*Big Mama is the expectant mother we’re talking with. She named herself.