The name John

7 years ago

OK, so I have the same middle name as Donald J. Trump. It’s John. I can’t help it. It’s on my Canadian birth certificate and I can’t help that either.  

Tina Fey just did a hilarious take on eating cheesecake and fighting racism, and I howled with laughter. It’s that funny, and it hits hard where it should hurt really bad.

Okay, about the name John. I can take her joke about Donald J. Trump being called Donnie John and it’s a real goofy thing to be called that, but when my mother called me ‘David John’ I knew I did something real baaaad, and I was going to pay for it. So my middle name meant something serious to me. Nothing funny about it, Tina.

There’s backstory to this. I was named after my Uncle John. His name was John David. See the connection? He was my father’s older brother and best friend. He was the sweetest guy you ever met, would do anything for anyone. I’ve never heard a bad word spoken about John, never.

Up in Allagash, I was once asked if I was related to a John Wylie and I said yes, he was my uncle. The response was, ‘You must be OK, then’ — because John wired his shop for him. He was an electrician by trade and would do things like that for others. John worked at Fraser Paper as an electrician back in the day when it was called Fraser Paper. I thought that was a little funny because Uncle John told me once that he was terrified of electricity, probably because he knew what it could do … which might make for a good electrician.

There’s a backstory to the backstory, as well. Uncle John was apparently named after the Taylor brothers, John and David. This goes back a little ways because the Taylor brothers were siblings of my great-great-grandmother and were soldiers in the Union Army in the Civil War. Both were Covenanters, and Covenanters were vehemently against slavery. Abolitionists. That John became a Covenanter minister in Vermont. David returned from the Civil War after being in the battles of Kennesaw Mountain, Franklin and Nashville, returning home to Ohio “sporting mustaches long enough to curl behind his ears.” I like that touch. It’s part of my family’s history.

I like what Benjamin Neff, a Baptist minister, wrote to his best friend, Rev. John Taylor and a fellow Civil War veteran in the same regiment. Supposedly it was the last letter John Taylor received from his friend, addressing him as “Brother” and signing off as “Your Comrade in the Army of Our Lord and of Our Country.” That still brings tears to me. Old soldiers and old patriots, something Donald John Trump couldn’t possibly understand.

It’s not as if I can shake the name off either, even if I wanted. Dad was in the Maine Legislature when I was born, and the Speaker of the House, a Mrs. Christie, introduced a congratulatory motion to my parents giving me my name. It passed unanimously. So I was named by the state legislature and it means I probably would have to go to them to get it changed. Why would I?

The John stuck in the middle of my full name (which I use when I sign my name) is also a point of pride with me. It makes me realize how lucky I am to have a name that goes back a ways; a reminder that I might have an obligation to keep true to what the name means and how it came to me. A lot of names kids are given these days are theirs because their mothers and fathers like the sound of it. Not me. I got lucky.

Still, I can recall that cold chill I’d get when my mother carefully pronounced my full name and how warm I felt when my first love called me that. You could see butterflies fluttering around it when she did.

Anyway, enough talking about me. Watch the Tina Fey video and have some cheesecake.

Dave Wylie’s life and work experience runs the gamut from newspaper editor to carpenter to grant writer to boat builder with lots of other work wedged in-between. Wylie currently is president of a management company that oversees an elderly housing complex and president of the local historical society. He resides in Madawaska.