The Stories We Hear, the Stories We Tell

I am in Florida right now visiting my 92-year-old grandfather and his 90-year-old companion.  There are certain Seinfeld-like moments, like the 5:30 early-bird dinner and the omnipresent television noise turned up to hearing-aid-penetrating levels.

But they are a smart, savvy, and doing pretty darn well. And they have stories to tell.

My grandfather told me again about how he was named.  He is the youngest in his family; his sister was 10 years older than him and his brother 12 years.  He was born at home, in his apartment in New York City, in 1918.  While his mother slept, the doctor came out of the room with the baby and asked what name to write on the birth certificate.

“Donald,” his brother and sister answered.  “She wants to name him Donald.”

So the doctor wrote it on the birth certificate.

Several days later, as his mother was getting back up and on her feet, she received a copy of the birth certificate.

“Donald!” she wailed, looking at the document. “I wanted to name him David!”

Her older children giggled.  It is still unclear whether they meant it on purpose or not.  What was certain is that they preferred the name Donald.

She didn’t like the name Donald.  To her, it was the name of a Scotsman, not a New York Jew.

To this day, he is known at David, but his birth certificate and driver’s license still say Donald. I only learned this a few years ago.

There are other stories.

His companion Anne told us about how her then-fiancé was in the service for four years straight. She had not seen him – even once –  in four years. Still, she planned their wedding.  He returned home and two days later they got married.

These are some of the stories I hear when I come down here.  There are thousands more.  I am so lucky to hear them, all these stories.  They become a kaleidoscope of moments in my mind and the bright fragments find their way into all kinds of things that I write. Writing is just another reason to be glad I get to hear these stories.

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