Tuesday, December 04, 2012

What's In a Name?

I think often of my father these days, the grantor of my maiden name, more so than the year after he died. The space and time, I think, have allowed me to remember him as he lived rather than how he died. Inside of me, there’s been a thrumming, a restlessness, to return to what cannot be returned, so I look for him in science and images and words, as well as in those left behind.

As I proceed through the hump of midlife, I ache to know and understand my ancestors. I find myself crawling the internet for clues. Growing up, my last name was a rarity, a funny assemblage of letters few could pronounce. As a family we traveled a lot, and I remember never seeing our surname in phone books. Besides my small New England family comprised of a great-grandmother (Mumu), grandparents, and aunts, uncles, and cousins, we were alone, at least in the United States. 

Near the upper reaches before the Arctic circle, we were more, our name in its Finnish form in phone books. Then, the internet expanded the world, and I find us taking up space in google: a film maker in Canada; a Lieutenant Colonel in California; a physician scientist; and many others. Recently, while in San Diego, I remembered there are people who may--or may not--be related to me by blood who lived in that part of the world. In a way, knowing this made the sprawling city feel smaller. We aren't so numerous as, say, Smiths or Taylors or Changs, but we aren't quite so rare, either. 

This brings me some comfort today. 

William Bruce Wastila
April 6, 1938 -- December 4, 2009

I miss you, Dad. 

1 comment:

  1. 'The space and time, I think, have allowed me to remember him as he lived rather than how he died.'

    My father, a very difficult man, has now been dead for over twenty years. Still I find myself wanting to tell him things, to ask him things, to show him things. And still the grace with which he approached death inspires me.