Starting tomorrow (August 23) I will be writing (hopefully daily) at https://whenimsixtyfour.me/ where I will attempt to capture the delights in my days for a year. This project is inspired by Ross Gay‘s The Book of Delights.
Someone in our blogging group suggested we write about our name. Note this was months ago — I am very much behind.
I was supposed to be Steve. Steven (Stephen? — probably not) Patrick. My parents were so sure I was going to be a boy that they didn’t pick out a girl’s name. When I was born I could not be named Stephanie because one of my mom’s best friends named her daughter Stephanie a couple of years earlier.
Rewind to my Mom’s pregnancy with me. Apparently my Uncle Don (my dad’s sister’s husband) was very excited about my upcoming birth. He and my dad were best friends and apparently he was looking forward to meeting me. He and my Aunt Leila had no children — I don’t know if it was by choice or not — and I think he was hoping we’d be close.
The story goes that when my Aunt and Uncle came to visit my mom in the hospital after I was born my Uncle suggested they name me Dona Lee — after him (Donald LeRoy). I guess they liked the idea (one “n” and all) so I became Dona Lee. (to be pronounced like Donna).
He had to wait about 23 days to hold me though because I was only 3 pounds and 9 ounces at birth. The hospital kept me for about 3 weeks.
My Uncle and I were very close. He called me Miss America and told me I was beautiful. He’d hold me in his arms and we’d “dance” around his living room while Paul Anka crooned “Put Your Head on my Shoulder” from the HiFi.
I know my parents loved me and they showed me that in many ways throughout my life, but my relationship with my uncle and namesake was more than special and tragically short because he died of heart failure when I was not yet seven years old. I still carry that grief — my first grief — with me today.