Just a few weeks back, 59-plus years ago, my lovely mom gave birth to a 9 lb. 13 oz., 23-inch-long behemoth of a boy — me. I was so big that I tell people that I was born on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The truth is that it was a Sunday at St. Mary’s Hospital right here in the River City. If the radio was on, chances were, you heard Pat Boone, Elvis Presley or the Everly Brothers singing one of their chart-toppers.
Urban legend is that my mom and dad couldn’t agree on a name. Dad wanted Kevin Patrick, and Mom wanted Patrick Kevin. Well, I guess if you give birth to the equivalent of a small truck, you win. Thus, the first of many names was hung on me, the official one that has served me well through so many decades. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been called a lot of other names as well, but the one that appears on my birth certificate was a good choice from my perspective. Nice call, Mom — glad you won out.
Growing up, the first nickname that stuck was “Spider-monkey.” The genesis of such an unusual moniker was that I was a gangly kid, arms and legs everywhere, and so skinny that soaking wet with rocks in my pockets didn’t even move the dial on the scale. Put me at shortstop, though, and nothing got past me. I covered a lot of dirt. Maybe you know what a spider-monkey is — I don’t. I’m not even sure if the name fit, but it was what it was — what the other kids in the neighborhood called me.
In high school, still gangly and skinny, but now with the addition of acne, glasses and a sense of humor (thank God), I picked up the name “Big A.” Self-explanatory (I think), in that I was 6’-plus and growing every day, still pretty good at baseball and strong at basketball, and at least two heads taller than most. Another nickname finding its way into my repertoire was “P.” It stuck. “P” because Pat is too hard to say or remember? Well, at least “Spider-monkey” fell by the wayside.
My favorite name, though, came three years ago when a precious little boy, all of 2, decided that he would call me “Poppy.” For every grandchild to come, he had the benefit of being the first to hang a title on his elder. I must tell you, it’s the best name ever for me. I don’t tire of hearing it, nor will I ever. Truly, I can’t get enough of it.
My precious little buddy turned 5 this past weekend. He jumped in my arms and proudly announced, “Poppy, it’s my birthday. I’m 5. Now I’m the same age as Virgil and Logan.” Obviously, at 5, it’s pretty cool to be the same age as your buddies.
I’ll tell you what else is pretty cool — being called Poppy by a little guy and two little girls (so far). Poppy, Poppy, Poppy all day, every day — now that’s the ticket.
I love you, Mom. Patrick Kevin was a great choice. But Poppy — well, that’s my favorite.