Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What's In A Namesake

To my son Tommy,

When it came time to choose your name, many thought I would just continue the tradition.  They assumed I would just name you Leo Thomas Downey V  (aka the fifth or as some suggested El Cinco).  I admit throughout my life I assumed that my son would carry on my name and had visions of a dynasty of Leos that would rival any successions of royalty everywhere. That was until I turned 18.

When I started having to establish my own credit, I realized how tough it was to distinguish father from son. This was also the beginning of online forms (yes in my younger days "online" was the novelty not the rule) for many registrations and tons of these didn't even give an option for my ordinal IV.  I could see their confusion.  I had the same name and lived at the same addresses as this other guy named Leo (my father and your granddad) all my life.  So they would ask me to confirm my social security number and I knew right then that they wanted to give me that credit card or whatever because they thought I was my father.

Also I learned that year that there were no set rules for ordinals.  It was Fall of 1992 and my Grandpa Charlie Klein had died and I was studying a bit of genealogy to figure out all the relationships of people that were visiting for the funeral but mostly to keep my mind occupied and not focus on the grief or loss.  I came across an article or op-ed by Judith Martin (a.k.a. Miss Manners) who suggested you only use the ordinal when your progenitors are alive.  So in fact, if we followed the etiquette and traditions of yore, when my great grandfather Leo Sr. died, my granddad was supposed to move up the chain from Jr. to Sr. and when my dad was born he shouldn't have been Leo the 3rd but Leo Jr. and that would make me Leo III.

So flash forward some 16 years later and I was about to have a son of my own and had to decide if I would burden him with the curse of El Cinco and what would I name him if I did the prudent thing and picked something else.  Your mother and I considered many options but we settled in on the switch-a-roo and came up with Thomas Leo Downey (I guess the first or senior if you decide to use the name for your son).

One part of your name choice, that not even your mother knows, that sealed the deal for me was the online search.  I had already gone through anagrams ("A Model Ow Honesty" is my favorite even if Ow is not a word but "A Melody Went Oohs" was a close second) and initials and determined that you were fairly safe there.  I also determined you had plenty of Saints to choose from to pick as your namesake, from Thomas the Apostle to Thomas Aquinas and everyone in between.  Now I just had to make sure what famous people had that first and middle name combination.

The first and most prominent result was Thomas Leo Clancy Jr.  This sealed it for me.  Tom Clancy is one of my favorite authors and he is a Baltimore native and even a part owner of the Orioles.  Though many criticized him for his attention to technical detail, I really enjoyed reading his books.  I avidly followed his characters Jack Ryan and John Clark in all his books and would have fun putting the pieces of the chronological puzzle together from (in chronological order) Without Remorse, where John Clark is created out of thin air and we meet more of Jack Ryan's father than Jack, all the way to at least The Bear and The Dragon where President Jack Ryan and Rainbow operative John Clark reunite. I still have the remaining books of the Jack Ryan Jr series to read because many of them came out after you were born and thus another Thomas Leo took precedence.

It has been reported, and I can only assume it is true, that Tom Clancy passed away last night at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.  He was only 66 years old with no known major medical problems.  Circumstances are yet to be known and any real information is being offset by his fans and/or conspiracy theorists.  With his genre of writing that is sort of expected.  Half of me hopes that some conspiracy theory holds true and Mr. Clancy went the way of  John Terrence Kelly.

I can't wait till you grow up and can read these books, written by one of your many namesakes, with me.  And you will read them and not just watch some Hollywood knockoff.  Until we can resurrect him by reading or re-reading his literary works together, rest in peace Mr. Clancy and thank you for the years of entertainment.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

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