Wednesday, November 9, 2011

1 and 3

Over the years a lot of people have asked me for my middle name, “you need to put your middle name here not just the initial L.” What most don’t know is that L. stands for nothing at all, and yet to me it stands for everything.

The story of my name began in 1921, then went through a significant change in 1945 to become the name I carry today. You see, I am the third Lloyd L. Lambert and the story of my name quite a tale.

My grandfather was born April 6, 1921 as one of 17 children into a family of farmers in Oklahoma. His given name was Lloyd Ernest Lambert. He grew up working the fields and left school after the 8th grade to help his family. Life on the family farm was good and he told me a great many stories about his childhood. He even taught me how to “chop cotton” like he did as a kid. But then in 1941 everything changed. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and our country went to war. Lloyd Ernest was soon drafted into the Army and was eventually assigned to an EVAC hospital, the forerunner of M.A.S.H. units, in New Guinea. There he saw the great horrors men do to one another during war. He didn’t talk much about the great war, he liked to say that “I just drove a truck” while in the Pacific. He told me that he wondered if he would ever get back home to see his mother again.

After what must have seemed like a lifetime, the war was suddenly over. In 1945 Lloyd Ernest was shipped back to the ‘States and was due to be discharged at San Francisco. That’s where the story of my name takes a sharp turn. You see some clerk somewhere, a person none of us would ever meet, made a simple mistake that affected three men for the rest of their lives. The clerk typed my grandfather’s name as Lloyd L. Lambert instead of Lloyd E. Lambert on his discharge paperwork. Upon seeing this my grandfather informed the clerks of the simple mistake. However, the clerks had literally thousands and thousands of soldiers to discharge. The time needed to rewrite his discharge papers; two weeks.

Lloyd Ernest thought for a long minute and then he had an idea. He set out in a taxi cab bound for the San Francisco courthouse. He wasn’t going to wait two weeks to see his family. No way, not after the years he had been overseas getting shot at. At the courthouse, he legally changed his name to Lloyd L. Lambert and his discharge paperwork became correct. And the L.? What does the shiny new L. stand for? Absolutely nothing, initial only. He was in such a great hurry that he didn’t stop to think up a name, none that he liked anyway. He rushed back to the base and was discharged from the Army as scheduled. I think today that would be called “thinking outside the box.” He left the farm as one man and returned as another, in more ways than one.

Four years later my father was born and became Lloyd L. Lambert Jr. In 1971 another firstborn son came into this world and became Lloyd L. Lambert iii. 1 2 and 3 Three men, same name. Initial only.

So, now that you know the story of what my name means to the world let me tell you what it means to me. That L. represents, in essence, my grandfather. He took an active role in raising me when I came to live with him and my grandmother as a baby. He was a quiet man, honest and hard working. He rose before the sun to provide for his family nearly every day of his life. I always took for granted that he knew the answer for everything. If I didn’t know what to do, all I had to do was look to him because doing whatever he was doing would be the right thing. I think Ernest was a great middle name for him, I never saw him be dishonest or unfair. I think that part of him lives on in me and I struggle to keep his quiet and calm persona at the forefront. I know he had disdain and dislike for a people and such, but he never showed it.

While 2 worked and provided, 1 and 3 spent years and years together. 1 taught me now to swim, to drive, to hunt, to fish, to ride and rope. I could go on all day telling you about all he taught me. He taught me some things about women too, but I won’t divulge any of his trade secrets here. He and my grandmother would take me out of grade school for weeks at a time to go on trips, just the three of us. By the time I was 8 years old I had swam in the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Gulf. I had been out of the country to Mexico where we shopped and were checked for fruit flies on the way back into the U.S. When Columbia made her first landing at Mojave in 1981 I was there. Parked on an interstate overpass sitting on the roof of the car with our binoculars. I still have the pictures. Their love was wrapped around me like a warm blanket and those memories are some of the greatest of my life.

Lloyd Sr. would continue to be the great influence in my life into my 30s. Always answering my questions and helping me with life’s little dramas. I talked to him each and every week after I moved out of state and my wife and I visited as much as we could. But when my grandmother passed away unexpectedly a huge part of him went with her. He was lost without her and he knew it. He spent three years waiting to see her. Then, one night early into the fall, he went to be with her. He died just as he lived, quietly and without a fight. On more than one occasion he had asked me if it bothered me that he was ready to go and be with my grandmother, he said it had bothered my father to hear him say that. I told him no, and that I though he was a full gown man and if he was ready then that’s all there was to it. He was 83 years old and it was the worst pain I have ever known.

I can’t really put into words what 1 means to me. It’s immeasurable the love and respect I have for him. The things he taught me, the things he took the time to teach me, have served me well every day of my life. I’ve said before, I see carrying his name as an honor. To be named for such a man has been the great privilege of my life. As 3, I will always strive to be all the things I saw in 1. I believe he lives on in me today and when I’m faced with a choice I always try to think what 1 would do. And I always try to be Lloyd Ernest.

If you have or have had someone like this in your life then you and I are in a very exclusive club. We were blessed by God and don’t ever forget how lucky we are to have had them. Not everyone gets to experience a love like this. Cherish it.

In closing, I’d like to say that it took me several sessions of writing before I completed this story. And though I am not an emotional person by nature, it took me many many tears too. I found it hard to describe how deeply I love 1 and how I will always be proud to be 3. I hope that came across to you. I believe that when you die, someone will be standing there waiting for you. Someone reaching out a hand to you from the nothingness, ready to show you the way.

I already know who my person is and he’s got the same name as me.

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