Thursday, September 10, 2009

Naming - Part I

The January third issue of a weekly newspaper in northern Indiana reported that "Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Fitzgerald are the proud parents of the first baby born in Kosciusko County in 1940. The little chap arrived at 1:15 a.m. at the McDonald Hospital. He weighs seven pounds. He has not been named at this time."

My dad wanted to name me Patrick or Michael. My mother wanted to name me after her Uncle Allen. Neither could accept what the other wanted. They compromised; I became George.

But my father preferred to call me Butch. He liked to say:

Butch Butch the baker's man

Baked his cake in a frying pan

Combed his hair with the leg of a chair ....

There was another line but I can't remember it.

Or maybe he'd say:

Butch, Butch, the piper's son,

Stole a pig and away he run.

The pig got loose

and killed a goose

and Butch got put in the calaboose.

Everyone called me Butch. Even the teachers in school called me Butch. When at high school graduation my turn came to walk across the stage to take my diploma the Superintendent of Schools called "Butch Fitzgerald."

In the Army I became, to my buddies, George. That took some getting used to. To the Drill Sargeants in Basic Training I was, sneeringly and scathingly and sometimes threateningly, merely "Hey Private!" or "Fitzgerald". My aim quickly became to try to be invisible to them, to not make eye contact, and to covet knowing that each rotten day had to end ... the 100 push-ups done, the 50 pull-ups (3 times daily in the chow line) done, the 10-mile hikes on dusty Missouri backroads ( carrying a 50-pound pack) accomplished, all the bullshit training gotten through, getting a marksman's badge on the rifle range (even with a bent sight on my M-16 ... yes, knowing that the moment would come when I could collapse onto my cot and have a few moments of peace before I fell asleep was what got me through it all.

I loved my cot.

Sometimes now I wake stiff and sore and think I need a new mattress. Then I think: No, I need an Army cot.

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