I was reading my Daddy’s boyhood dog Barney’s diary last night looking for more wit and wisdom when I found an interesting conversation he had with my Daddy when he was a boy.
My Daddy never played sports. That uncoordinated bugaboo got him. But when he was a boy he liked to grab his glove and throw the ball against the pitch back set up under the maple trees.
One day he was doing this and a storm came up. He ran into the cellar. He liked it there when it rained because he looked like a Major Leaguer peering out of the dugout. It had been a hot day, and Barney had taken refuge in the cellar, but he smelled his friend on the steps, stood, stretched, and walked over to him.
He sat down next to Daddy who stroked his heavy black fur. Because Barney was an outside dog and didn’t cotton to baths Daddy ended up with a thin film of black on his hand. Barney wasn’t like dogs today. He roamed the neighborhood and ruled it from one end to the other.
My Daddy’s Auntie lived up the street from him and across the street lived mean Mr. Medas and mean Mr Medas owned a mean dog. One day Barney walked up the street to my Auntie’s to say hey, and then crossed the street, stuck his big black bear head in Mr Medas’ garage and saw a large bag of Gravy Train in the corner. Well Barney stood on his back legs, bit the top of the bag, and tipped it. He then began to drag the bag down the street. A little ways past the garage a small hole opened in the bag. Daddy was in his yard looking up the street, and saw Barney dragging something. He waited at the end of the driveway. Barney walked to him, put the bag at his feet, and said “See, I don’t need you for food,” and right behind Barney was mean Mr. Medas following the trail of food that Barney had left from the ripped bag.
Barney was blessed with several lives, and this one he shook off with a look of disdain and a quiet “next time lock up your food” mumble. On this rainy day Barney was not whittling away one of his many lives and was more interested in the beginning of Daddy’s.
“Your name is Teddy isn’t it?” Barney asked.
“Well Barn, it’s Ted, but Mom calls me Teddy,” Daddy said.
“But when I walked to your school,” it was less than a quarter mile from Daddy’s house, “and sat outside the door I heard them call you Edgar.”
Daddy looked out at the rain. “Well that’s my real name,” he said in a dejected voice.
“Why would these slope nosed losers name their son Edgar?” Barney asked.
“Well,” Daddy said throwing the ball in his glove. “My grandfather’s name is Edgar, and Daddy’s name is Edgar, so I am Edgar as well.”
“You poor bastard,” Barney said and licked Daddy’s hand. “Why would someone named Edgar name their son Edgar?”
“Well my Dad’s Dad, he was named Edgar so I imagined his Dad did it just out of revenge.”
“And what about yours?” Barney asked.
Daddy took a big sigh. “Well, before I was born, when Mom was pregnant with me, Mom and Dad didn’t talk very much. So along came the day that I was to be born and they got in the car together and drove to the hospital. Still not speaking. They loaded Mom on to the gurney while her husband began watching the television in the waiting room and, as she got to the doors to go into the operating room she looked up at my Dad and says ‘what do you want to call it?’
“Now my Dad had always been an ornery sort, and he can’t give a straight answer. He could have said Timmy, or Dave, or Kenny, or even Barney would have been acceptable, but instead he said ‘Anything but Edgar’ which would have been OK, if, just as my Father was saying ‘anything but’ the gurney hadn’t crashed into the door, drowning out these two words, and leaving the only thing Mom could hear being Edgar.”
My Daddy took a sip of water he had in a green bottle and looked out at the pouring rain. “So Mom gives birth to me, and they ask her what to name her son, and she tells the nurses that, while she hates the name, it would make the baby’s father very happy if the baby was named Edgar.
“Meanwhile in the baby waiting room my father was anxiously waiting to meet his son Stevie or Joey. The nurse led him down to the room where my Mother was holding me and my Father’s heart filled with all the love heaven would allow and he asked his son’s name.
“And when he heard it, all that love that had filled his heart, was squeezed out like a mean clown crushing a child’s happy birthday balloon, and in that moment, I heard, for the first of many times, the sound of my parents fighting, and my little feet and little arms began moving in a running motion, and one of the nurses squealed in delight at my cute activity, which my parents were oblivious to as they called each other friggen idiots and simultaneously caused five women to undilate three inches, and for a thirty mile radius, I was the only boy or girl to have February the 13th as a birthday.’
Barney rested a paw on Daddy’s leg and gave his arm a lick. This was truly a sad story, told with no embellishments, because frankly, there was little need for any, of a boy who would grow up to be a slow-witted middle-aged man. “Must have been rough in school,” Barney said.
“Well,” Daddy said. “I walked to school with Mom on the first day of first grade and all the way I said please don’t tell them to call me Edgar, please don’t tell them to call me Edgar. She takes me to class. The teacher asks my name. She says Edgar. I vomited. That was my first day of school.”
Daddy looked outside at the rain. “Then in second or third grade I had had enough. I said I did not want to be called Edgar again. I wanted the name of a famous athlete. From that day forward I wanted to be called OJ. OJ Gay. Thankfully that didn’t stick.”
Barney looked up with his deep brown eyes. “Yeah I didn’t want to bring that up. The Gay thing. That was kind of a tough one.”
“You know, I got to sixth grade, and it was a new school,” Daddy said. “And my mother wasn’t going to be taking me to school so I could tell them whatever name I wanted. The teacher asked my name and I said Ted and then she asked my last name and I said Gay and everyone started laughing. Seems like over the summer all the homosexuals decided they would rather be known as Gay. Now I don’t have anything against homosexuals, but if they were going to hijack my name, they should have at least sent me a postcard warning me.”
The rain had stopped. Daddy sat with Barney awhile longer, then gave him a pat on the head and ran outside to throw against his pitch back again. Barney watched him. Edgar. Edgar Gay actually. Edgar Gay III to get quite specific. Edgar Amos Gay III to go to an area even Barney didn’t want to explore.
Barney realized what carrying that name meant. It meant he wouldn't be picked first in sports, wouldn’t be a ladies’ man, and only trust a few people not to make a cruel or biting remark during a casual conversation about something he had no control over.
Barney turned and walked back down the stairs knowing this about his Daddy: No matter where he went or what he did, his true best friends would always be the furry four legged kind, and that would make a few selected dogs very happy.