I forget my name

Oh no not because of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease but because I just don’t relate to them – my surnames.

I got married when I was 44 and I changed my last name from my father’s to my husband’s.  At the time I did it a trifle unwillingly but since my husband’s ex-wife reverted to her maiden name, (maiden name – isn’t that quaint?) keeping my maiden name would have confused so many issues since my husband’s children were quite young at the time. It probably isn’t so much of a problem now but back in 1990 – 3 adults with 3 different last names responsible for the children – not gonna fly well.

Each of my surnames has caused me a lot problems. A person does get tired of having to spell/explain/correct people when giving their name.

My maiden name is Torre. Simple, right? No. My last name is Italian. I was told it was the “Smith” of Naples ie: very common. But in the United States, and particularly New York City people just slap an S on the end and start talking in Spanish. I would spell it out – T O R R E, no S. Italian not Spanish.

Two examples of what I went through just about every time I gave my name:

I took some clothes to the dry cleaner and when asked my name for the receipt, I said Torre and then spelled it. The counter guy said you mean “Torres”. I said “No, I don’t. I mean Torre, no S, I know my own name” Guy says: “I never heard of that name” and wrote “Torres”. I picked up my clothes and walked out.

In college: First night of class, professor is reading through the registration cards, gets to my name, says “Torres”? I don’t answer, not my name. He’s reading off a printed card, of which I have a duplicate and my name is spelled correctly.  He finishes the roll call, looks at me and says “Are you registered? What’s your name?” I say “Grace Torre”. He says “I called your name” I say “No, you didn’t. He looks at the card and says “It’s right here, Grace Torres” I say: Look at it again, what does it say?” We did this 3 times. I say “Don’t they teach English professor to read English?” I walked out and dropped the class.

When Joe Torre became manager of the NY Mets it was a little easier – I would say “Torre – like Joe Torre of the Mets” People would say “Oh you related to him?” “No” I would say “we just have the same last name.”

My husband’s last name is St. Clair, that is pronounced Saint Clair . Unless of course you are in Britain, or any country that was ever a part of the British Empire, then the name is pronounced Sinclair.  And here we go again – no I don’t respond because my name isn’t Sinclair!!!

Or better, because no one pays attention – being called from the reception room of just about anywhere – “Claire??” Anyone here named Claire?” And yes, they do add an E, you can’t hear it but that’s how they write it – St. Claire with an E.  The first time that happened I didn’t tip to it so I sat waiting to be called. I finally went up to the desk and inquired how much longer I would have to wait, I was told “But Claire, your name was called” I had to explain my name wasn’t “Claire” but Grace St. Clair. 

I got used to that.

With the advent of the whole world being computerised having a 2-word last name which includes a period – well, you know what fun that has been.

My passport and state ID has my last name as ST (space) CLAIR. Just about everywhere else the two words are just run together Stclair.  Of course one time I got a robo reminder call from a doctor’s office that addressed me as Ms. Street – get it? St. being an abbreviation for street.

So in this weird world of no one paying attention my first name is: Grace. My middle name is ST and my last name is Clair (often with an e).

And sometimes my first name is Claire.

And sometimes my last name is Sinclair.

And sometimes my last name is Stclair (often with an E – don’t forget that damn E, much like that damn S that doesn’t belong on my name.)

(More confusion? I use ‘Torre’ as my middle name. So my middle initial is T – play with that whole mess for a while.)

Anyway, yesterday I had to write out some checks (I know, who writes checks any more, right?) and as I was signing the checks I couldn’t remember my last name!

But my real point is: The name Torre doesn’t mean anything to me anymore, it’s not who I am anymore. And the name St. Clair, well that was never MY name to begin with.

Just like I came to the realization some time ago that I don’t have a home, I’m beginning to feel that my only name is Grace. Those other names? Just words, just sounds, not me.

Grace – that’s who I am, that’s my name. Just the one. Just me.

11 thoughts on “I forget my name

  1. Interesting! I never liked my first name (paul with an a stuck on, not very creative), but as I aged I began to at least appreciate that it’s short and easy for people to spell…

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    1. My mother wanted to name me Paula because she liked the name Paul and she wasn’t planning on having any more children. She was outvoted, so she decided on Graziella, but she didn’t know how to spell it so I became Grace, after her mother, whose name was Grazia, which is short for Graziella but my grandmother changed her name to Frances because she got teased about her name when she came to this country. Tho my father’s sister told the birth certificate people my name was Mary Grace, Mary after her mother but when my mother found out she told them to just leave the first name blank and she would register it later. My original birth certificate has no first name on it.

      When my younger brother was born my mother tried for Paul but again, she was outvoted, my brother’s legal first name is Lawrence but he’s never been called that, he goes by Skip, always has.

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  2. My dog’s name is RD. It is pronounced R D. It isn’t road as I’ve had some people say how could I name my dog road since RD is the abbreviation for road. But her name is not road, it is R D. Plain and simple. Many many years ago I was a registered nurse working at a community hospital in the emergency room. We had to be the triage nurse on a rotating basis. The triage nurse would call patients names and do a preliminary evaluation of their need and then place them in a category depending on our findings. We see a lot of Hispanic people and I have heard the Hispanic name Jesus, pronounced in the Hispanic way, “hey zus”. I never knew it was spelled Jesus. One night I was the triage nurse and it was a very busy night in the waiting room was packed with people. I walked out into the waiting room and yelled the name… Jesus! I did not pronounce it in the Hispanic way. Again called out the name Jesus! I followed that with is there somebody out here by the name of Jesus?! Again each time I said the word Jesus I did not say it the Hispanic way for I did not know that’s how you were supposed to pronounce it. The packed waiting room got really quiet. Finally a man walked up to me and said that his name was Jesus (pronounced the Hispanic way) and then it clicked to me what the name was.

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  3. An amusing essay on the not-amusing nomenclature road you have traveled. Makes my battle with the extra “e” seem petty by comparison.

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    1. Ooo yeah – you have that extra E problem too! As I was writing I knew that more people have this problem than don’t. Even poor old Jon Smythe has to deal with it.


    1. Of course I had to look that up – ““Non-fungible” more or less means that it’s unique and can’t be replaced with something else.” A unique name that can’t be replaced with something else? I good with that – whatever it might turn out to be. I’ve never been fond of people shortening names to create “nicknames” – I do have that habit of calling people by their whole name – so Robert is always Robert, never Bob (unless he tells me he prefers Bob)…

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  4. And I thought it was bad growing up rarely did anyone pronounce my last name right. It was Surovick (pronounced sir o vick) It was almost always pronounced with an itch on the end instead of an ick

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    1. Perhaps the people pronouncing it as “vich” were from the Old Country – or closer to being from the Old Country than the ‘vick’ pronouncers – I would say ‘vick’ myself.


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