Category Archives: People

My name

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.

My Uncle Don in a set-up photo waiting for me to come home for the first time
My Uncle Don (the short one on the left) next to a tall man, also named Don.

A Memorable Walk

Our blogging group settled on a favorite walk for our latest topic. I could not think of a favorite, but I did remember a memorable one.

As much as I claim to love the out-of-doors I am a homebody and tend to stay inside much more than is good for me. Dean likes going out and doing things so he was pleasantly surprised when, eleven years ago, I requested a family hike on the Trillium Trail at the G R Thompson Wildlife Management Area in the Shenandoah Valley for my Mother’s Day gift.

I’d not heard of trilliums until high school when, for my birthday, my friend Cindy gave me a green suede choker with a single white trillium on the front. I’d not seen one in person, until college when my botany 101 professor, Mr. Steinboch, took us on a field trip to a local park. The next time I saw them was in Pittsburgh when a friend and I visited the Trillium trail there (now a subdivision). I was ready to see more trilliums.

We were going to have to get up early to get to the trail and hike before we ate lunch. A small roadblock was the fact that Clare was spending the night with some friends. We warned her that we were stopping by early to pick her up. Andrew was fine with everything, as far as I recall — he always made sure any special day (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays) were special for the person being celebrated.

The morning of the walk we got up early, ate breakfast and picked up Clare. She was unhappy about having to get up early and very grumpy. We let her sleep in the car. When we got to the park she continued her grumpiness, but Andrew was energetic and happy so that was good.

The hike was beautiful and those of us who’d had a decent sleep were good. I saw trilliums, skunk cabbage, lady slippers, May apples and even an eastern towhee or two.

We had a mid-morning snack on a rock, Andrew rested on a branch, Dean took one of my favorite photos ever of me. Clare continued to be grumpy.

I don’t remember if I was upset that Clare was grumpy the entire day. I probably was and I might be to this day except for one thing — years later she explained to me why she was grumpy all day and apologized for it. The night before she’d been drinking with her friends (apparently the parents were okay with it) and the next day she had her first hangover. While I don’t condone her drinking at age 17, I understand why she was grumpy and realized that she was doing her best to make my day a happy one just by being there.

Two birthday cards from Grandma Green

This card was from 1980 and the note on the back refers to Dean and my trip to the Chetek cabin for our first vacation together. By this time Grandma had moved in with John in his trailer in Plano, Illinois.

This next card was probably from 1983 because I spent a few days with my Grandma and her partner, John, on my way from Pittsburgh to Elgin to drop off the cats for some reason or another — maybe Dean and I went to San Francisco that year? It was not the most direct of routes, but it enabled me to see her in her home. I think it was the only time I went to Plano, Illinois to visit her and John.