If I had had a daughter, her name would have been Helena. I never met a Helen I didn’t like. As an exchange student in Spain I had met a Helen from Ireland. Helen from Ireland had bright blue eyes and looked as if she were about 14 even though she was already 20. And she was just as innocent as she looked. The other Helen I had loved was an exchange student from South Africa. She came to my high school in Wisconsin when I was a sophomore. I can still remember being surprised that she wasn’t black. Such ignorance is embarrassing. She was much more worldly than the Irish Helen, but they were both kind-hearted and decent, so much so that I thought Helen would be a perfect name for my daughter. Also, my mother’s middle name is Elaine and I wanted my baby to inherit her middle name just as I share my grandmother’s middle name. Thus Helena would be my baby’s name and it would sound good in both English and Spanish. Besides, even history tells us that Helena is the name of a woman worth fighting for.
If you don’t mind, I will call myself Helena. I am a fighter.
We didn’t know the sex of our baby until he was born. We will call him Philip. It’s a dignified name, particularly in English. In reality, he was named after my maternal grandfather who I had dearly loved. He was the first of my grandparents to pass away. At his funeral, I was frightened and sad because my parents and the rest of my family were crying. I thought it was the end of the world and that they would never smile again. On the way to the burial it may have been raining. I’m not sure if the windows were blurred from the rain or from my tears. Memories fade, but I certainly recall drops of water making their way down the backseat window of the car. About a week later, my grandpa appeared one night at the foot of my bed and told me that everyone, including my mother, would be okay. He didn’t look like a ghost at all so I wasn’t afraid when I saw him. It actually felt perfectly natural. He looked better than he had at the end when the cancer had left him so frail. He was wearing a button down sweater just as he had worn in real life. After he soothed my pain and made me understand that life would go on and that my parents and family would go back to living, he said goodbye and I never saw him again. Due to that visit, he became my guardian angel, and I named my son after him. As you can see, my son and I share the names of my maternal grandparents.
Ironically, my grandfather had been an only child because his mother had miscarried four times. My own son is also an only child as I miscarried after him. It makes me wonder if his name has something to do with it.
Do we inherit the fortune and misfortune of those we are named after?
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