My birth certificate reads "Patrick Daugherty." When I was a child everyone called me Pat. My first love, a big-busted, traveling woman, dubbed me Patrick, gave my full name back to me, but that happened a long way down road.
I began to walk and talk when I was two. I didn't care about my name then. I was just delighted to be here. At six, I became ambivalent about my name: Patrick was too formal, too distant; Pat was too intimate, too gender vague. Elementary school enemies called me "Patty" or "Patricia" or "Fat-Pat" or "Pat-the Fat," epithets that required immediate combat.
When I was eight, my family moved to West University, Texas, then a suburb of Houston. I transferred into school the day before Halloween. That first morning, dressed in the hated clothes my mother had bought at JCPenney the previous afternoon. I arrived at a red brick, two-story elementary school. My mom handed me off to the vice principal who escorted me down the hall to my homeroom class. There, the stern and evil Mrs. Quick ordered me to a front-row seat. After my protector left, Mrs. Quick directed me to stand up. I stood, facing a classroom of strangers, my little duck feet pointing outward, even then bow-legged. Mom had me decked out in brand-new, conspicuously orange, short-sleeved shirt. My enemy announced, "Everyone, this is our new student, Patricia," pause for laughter, "Pat Daugherty." My classmates tittered. The palms of my hands, already wet began to drip sweat onto the gray linoleum floor. Sweat rained down from my forehead; my face took on the color of a baboon's ass.
Morning recess rang at 9:30. The class of 27 student marched out of homeroom, single file, into a cement courtyard and through an open gate onto a large expanse of grass.
As the new kid, I didn't know what to do or what the other kids were doing. Girls gathered in a circle on the far end of the field. Boys were playing with a blue ball, the size of a soccer ball. The boys ran with the ball, passed it, kicked it, picked it up, and threw this blue ball to no one in particular. The action seemed random; I couldn't decipher whether there were teams, or what the activity's purpose was. I stood still and waited to see what would happen. A big blonde boy ran towards me. he was running after the ball, getting closer, closer, and to my astonishment, the bastard crashed into me and knocked me down. "Are you the new girl?" he taunted.
I stood up and slugged him.
Fighting words have a way of changing over time. After I turned 13, my family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. On the opening day of school, I stood in line at the registrar's office, under a gray drizzle, behind 500 students, on the campus of Los Altos Junior High School. I collected my blue class packet and began trudging through strange buildings wondering who was going to be in my class, who I should sit next to, what the teacher would be like, and struggling, unsuccessfully, to look as if I fit in.
10:05 a.m. Day one. I glanced down at my third-period ticket for the 35th time in five minutes. 27B was printed on the top right-hand corner. At 13 I had already learned the male trick of never asking directions, so I spent ten minutes walk-jogging the entire campus, until finally, out of breath, frenzied, my head throbbing, I found, at the very last second, a low-slung, redwood building, across a red-tiled courtyard from the woodworking class. 27B.
As the bell rang, I and 23 girls shuffled into the room. 27B was the site of Home Economics 101. It had been 12 months since I discovered that girls had magical breasts, often wore tight blouses and skirts, had different butts, had different smells, walked differently, talked differently, put lipstick on their mouths and God knows what on their faces, did complex things with their hair, and lived in an entirely different world than the one I inhabited. I was curious and I was afraid.
We sat on high stools next to oversized worktables. Behind our tables, along the east wall, below a bank of tall windows, were a half-dozen Hotpoint stoves, four sinks, and two refrigerators. on the wall behind out teacher's desk hung a color print depicting the four major food groups. An accompanying print depicted a pyramid divided into three sections. One section presented grains and breads, another fish and fowl, the third cheese and milk. Further down the wall was a framed illustration of fruits and sheep. I have never understood the meaning of that image.
Six workbooks sat on each table. I grabbed one and grazed. The first chapter was all about the fun we were gong to have learning how to bake bread. A second bell rang, the teacher, Miss Innes, read the roll, and shortly I heard, "Patricia Daugherty." She stopped, looked at me, looked down at her roll book, said, "There's been a mistake;" the class laughed.
After roll, everyone was told to read the first chapter in the textbook. Miss Innes beckoned me to her desk, said she would write a note and I should return to the office to be reassigned. I knew instantly, the way you know that being warm and full is better than being cold and hungry, that this was a far better class than making table lamps with the guys, which even then had a prison feel to it. I stammered and allowed as how I would like to stay on. "Always wondered about making bread," I said.
Miss Innes smiled a for-real, sexy smile, one that sent a powerful electric jolt through my hormone-exploding body. "No," she said softly, lazily, "bread baking will have to wait."
I thought about her for years.
All during high school I was misidentified at registration time. But by then I was well over six feet tall, so there wasn't any "Pat-the Fat" or "Patricia" coming my way from school yard detractors. Mostly I didn't think about my name; it was just there, like my arm, or my bed, or mowing the grass on Saturday morning.
I did notice an absence of historical pals. There was no President Patrick or General Patrick or King Patrick or Explorer Patrick or Painter Patrick. It was me and St. Patrick and Patrick Henry and that was about it. I always like St. Patrick, liked to hear about him driving the snakes out of Ireland. I liked it that a saint was named Patrick and when, many years later, St. Patrick was decertified, I was surprised how annoyed I was.
I spent half my childhood in Georgia and Texas and California. Occasionally, very occasionally, adults would say, when I was introduced, "Now that's a good Irish name," and I would chuckle and allow that it was. But I had no clue what Irish was, none. It was my name, it meant me, it didn't mean whatever people had in their heads about Irish. My mom was a Flannery, but her family had been in the country 120 years and had thoroughly melted into the pot. My dad was a Daugherty, a black Irishman's descendant, and his family had been in the states for 200 years. My parents knew more about Chinese history than Irish history. I felt as much connection to the old sod as I felt for Ukrainian dancers I saw on The Ed Sullivan Show.
And then I entered into the adult world of sex and money. I got too busy too think about my name.
It wasn't until three years ago, when my extended family held a family reunion in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that I returned to the subject. I decided to attend for the hell of it, which has often turned out to be the best reason to do something. I had not seen my relatives in 35 years. My maternal grandmother was one of 11 children; my maternal grandfather was one of 11 children. Two hundred fifty-nine blood relatives attended that picnic on the banks of the Allegheny River, and I wouldn't have recognized one of them on the street.
On the one hand, it was like being with 259 strangers, except everyone was nice to you. On the other hand, I was amazed to grasp that names meant a great deal to these people. I was the only Daugherty in attendance. Flannerys and Fridays and Connallys were hovering over picnic tables and beer kegs, and they would beam over the sound of their names. It was the oddest thing to watch; you could actually see people stand a little straighter, become more attentive when their name was called over a loudspeaker or mentioned in conversation. I watched that go on all afternoon, and ever since that rather ordinary picnic I've wondered, regularly, what's in a name?
What is in a name? I mean, what if I'd been named Edward, an upstanding, reliable, if stodgy name. Would I have liked math? How about Charles? Would I have chosen the too-familiar Charlie or the aloof Charles? Could I have been a poet? What about Dexter? Would I be a carpenter now, or would I be pacing a 6-by-9-foot cell, counting the days off a 32-year prison term? How would I have reacted to the sound of another name, to the feel of being called Edward or Charles or Dexter by every human being I met over a span of 50 years? Would that have changed who I turned out to be?
I decided I could never know what had not occurred, and I don't have the option of changing my name now and then waiting 50 years to see what would happen. So, I figured the next best step was to find other Patrick Daughertys. What do they think about our name? What kind of people have they become?
According to a national search, there are 682 Patrick Daughertys living in the United States of America who are listed in phone books. In San Diego and Imperial Counties there are five.
I feel like I'm flying in from Mars. Me, though, anybody, pick a name — in this case, Patrick Daugherty — but it couldn't be any name. You telephone the stranger. You say hello, explain who you are and what you want, then ask if you can come over and talk. He says, "Yes," so you drive 60 miles to a city that you've only rarely passed through and enter his life.
This is how I came to meet Patrick Daugherty of Escondido. Patrick lives in a comfortable, suburban ranch house tucked behind a snatch of well-kept lawn. I park, walk up his newly swept concrete driveway, and ring the doorbell. A thin man, 35 years old, five foot ten, with a thick brown mustache answers. The man appears to have Hispanic ancestry. I learn later, his mother's family is Perez. We shake hands, I say, "Hi, I'm Patrick Daugherty."
"Pleased to meet you, I'm Patrick Daugherty."
We pass through an entryway into a large living room where three people wait dressed in Sunday-best clothes. Patrick makes the introductions. "This is my youngest daughter Nicole, with my girlfriend. This is my older daughter Angela, my son Drew, both from my first marriage. Drew is 10; Angelia is 18, come January. Nicole is 6. Nicole, can you say hi to Patrick?"
"Hello, Nicole, it's a pleasure to meet you." I take a seat on Patrick's hard-won Ethan Allen recliner, accept a Diet Pepsi, look over to four expectant faces, ask Patrick, "Where were you born?"
"Right here, Oceanside, Camp Pendleton."
"What's your dad's name?"
"Where does he live?"
"Is he retired?"
"He's still working back in Michigan. He's a mechanic by trade. he's at Oxford, outside of Pontiac, doing tool-and-die in one of the auto factories. He's in his late 50s, early 6s. I didn't have any contact with the old man for 17 years. My stepdad raised me."
"Did your dad send any money or was he just gone?"
"No, he didn't send money."
I take a sip of Pepsi, everybody appears happy to be here. The living room is clean, white curtains hang over sliding-glass doors, it feels like Christmas Eve. I lean forward and ask, "How did you first meet your dad?"
"I flew back to see who he was, find out a little background. My dad is a typical Irishman, loved to drink, consequently has a drinking problem. In fact, when i arrived, he was doing a year on a work-release program. He got caught up in Windsor, Canada. He was a convicted felon, so he got a year on that offense. I met my sister on that trip."
"What was he caught for, a DUI?"
"I'm sure it was alcohol-related."
"How did you know where he was?"
"Aunts and uncles. I knew he was from Michigan. He was a 17-year-old kid when he joined the Marine Corps, stationed in Pendleton, met my mom. He was around until I was four or five. Apparently, he'd run into some hard luck, did some time at Jackson State Penitentiary. That was one reason why there was no contact, but I'd always known he was in Michigan."
"You said you met your sister for the first time on that trip. Didn't you know you had a sister?"
"No, not until then. It was weird, but it was great. I flew back to meet my dad and got to meet my sister for the first time. Like I say, my dad was on a work-release program. I talked to him on the phone and he said, 'I won't be able to pick you up, but your sister will.' And that's when it kind of hit me. 'Oh, no kidding.'
"I got off the plane in Detroit and I knew right away, and she did too. I found her in a crowd and she found me coming off the plane and we connected. I was 34 and she was, I think, a year younger. Her name is Debbie.
"We hit it off. I visited my dad at the facility where they were keeping him or where he worked during the day. I stayed with my sister, stayed a couple weeks, trying to catch up on background, grandparents, that type of stuff."
"Did your sister know she had a brother?"
"I'm sure she knew for a long time, yeah."
"How come she never got in touch?"
"I have no idea. I tell you, the whole mentality is different than it is out here. I've lived everywhere as a result of the military. My stepdad had a career in the Marines, so I've been everywhere in the United States. It's just a different mentality back in Michigan. I don't know why. My sister and I talk," his voice lowers, saddens "twice a year. Christmas for one, and usually some other time in the year."
"When did you go back?"
"How long did you stay with your sister before you saw your dad?"
"The next day."
"Where was he?"
"He was on the work-release program, eh was a mechanic for a garage."
"Had your sister seen your dad all along?"
"So what was that like? Did she drive you over?"
"Our background is not unique in the sense that I have a half sister there, a half brother with my stepdad, and I have a half sister also. So I got to meet two half sisters back-to-back, one on my dad's side and one on my mom's side. One had spent a lifetime looking for us, was only able to catch up to us because the records were sealed. My mom had given her up for adoption. At that time we were taken by the state from my mother. My daddy had been incarcerated, the state stepped in and took the four of us. Then we went back with my mom. My mom had remarried at that time and recovered and lived with a guy; I call him Dad now, he raised me from teh time I was six or seven. He raised all of us. I have all the respect in the world for this man."
At first I went to laugh — this is first-rate jumble. Then I feel all that pain, see all those empty places. I want to fill them. What happened to the mom, removed from what, booze, drugs? Whose half sister, how many half sisters, where are they now, how did the family get back together? Did they get back together? Why did the state step in? Which state/ When? The stepdad, what happened? I want the when, where, how, and it's eight o'clock at night and this guy has invited me into his house, been as honest and gracious as can be, and he's sitting proudly on a quilt couch surrounded by his family and doesn't have a clue what this is going to look like in print. I take another sip of Diet Pepsi knowing I'm supposed to go get it, knowing he'll give it. And I say to myself, "The hell with it, I'm not going in there," and move on to another question.
"What did you say the first time you saw your dad — was he working, was he on break?"
"He was in the shop, working on a car, in a lube bay. I went up and shook his hand. I had met him before. Years earlier, he came out here looking for us and found my brother. I have a brother, Dennis, who's 11 months younger than I am. At that time everyone was going through a period of not wanting to know him. I just said, 'Hi,' shook his hand and that was all of the conversation. That was it. I still had a lot of resentment. Then, as I got older, got married and divorced, I went back and that's when I started my relationship with him."
"What was the first thing he said to you?"
"'How are you doing, son?' I said, 'Pretty, good.'"
"What were you looking for?"
"I was divorced, raising kids — at that time I had two kids. I wanted to learn my family background. I knew absolutely nothing about my family. And I wanted to figure out why I am such a moody SOB and this type of stuff.
"I learned about my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. I got to meet a sister I never knew I had. There's a whole clan of Daughertys — typical Irish, they love to drink."
"What kind of a fellow is Patrick senior? Is he a happy fellow, a sad fellow?"
"From what I can remember he was a guy who loved his buddies. Never, ever took a drink at home, but he would come home blitzed, drunk. He's a character, seems to be a guy that never accepted much responsibility in his life. We talk five or six times a year. We take turns calling each other. I can tell when he's hittin' the bottle. He doesn't drink any hard stuff, just beer, that's his drink. He seems like a mellow, low-speaking kind of guy."
Nicole, dressed in pink cotton pajamas, runs to the back of the house, then returns holding a teddy bear. Patrick watches carefully, enthusiastically.
I interrupt his thoughts. "Did you like the name Patrick when you were six years old?"
"Yeah, I did."
"Did you ever get teased, playmates call you Patty or Patricia?"
"Oh yeah, all the time. They'd call you Patty, Patricia, all that stuff."
"Have you ever wished you weren't named Patrick Daugherty?"
"At times I wished for an English name, John Smith or something. I've thought about that once or twice. But for the most part I've always been proud of my name. I've always liked the name Pat. I never did want to be called Patrick, rough. Never did."
"A little too formal?"
"Probably, probably. I get the Big Pat and and Little Pat. I used to get that all the time. Even when i went back to see him, it was Big Pat and Little Pat."
Angela carries a tray of cheddar cheese and crackers from the kitchen. Nicole cradles her teddy and says, quietly, calmly, "I would like some cookies." Two adult voices announce, "Too close to bedtime."
Patrick volunteers, "I've been supporting a family ever since I can remember. Started in '74, right out of high school." Soft brown eyes canvass the living room. "Got a long way to go. I'm a painting contractor. My first job out of high school was selling paint; that's all I've ever done. My background is sales, outside rep. I've been a regional supervisor, store manager, always for paints, wall coverings. Right now I'm a foreman for one of the biggest residential repaint contractors around. Business, for us, is quite good, that's why I stay with this guy."
Patrick and I step outside to have a cigarette. He explains, "They don't let me smoke in the house." We stand in the driveway, autumn's first breeze pushes against our sweaters. Patrick lifts the garage door, point to three all-terrain vehicles.
I regard the ATVs and ask, "Do you do a lot of camping?"
"I do a boy's trip every year, me and a buddy, up to Pine Mountain, out of St. George, Utah. We spend days and days on the mountain. Take pack horses, camp, shoot, ride, drink. I'd like to start taking the family. Horses have always been my love. I want to be somewhere and have horses."
"my dad's name was Charles Walt Daugherty. I have five half brothers and sisters; they were all by my mother's first husband."
Speaking in a slow, accentless voice is Valley Center's Patrick Daugherty. He doesn't want to meet but will talk over the phone, which is better than Spring Valley's Patrick Daugherty, who has refused to meet, speak, or write.
Valley Center Patrick tells me he's six foot, two inches, 312 pounds, has a full head of silver hair with one small bald spot in the back, wears glasses, and sports a full Santa Claus beard. Patrick says he lived in a one-story stucco house in Valley Center since 1978. I ask when he was born.
"I was born in 1931, I'm retired from Edison. I got a kid by my first wife, and two kids with my second wife that were hers when we married. That was 37 years ago.
"I like my name and I like being Irish, but when I was growing up there weren't Polish jokes, just Irish jokes. The drunk Irish, the dumb Irish. The big, dumb Irishman did this; the big, dump Irishman did that. I've always been a big man, so I was the big, dumb Irishman. My dad told me about the 'Irish and dogs kept off the lawn' and, 'Irish need not apply for the job' and 'Irish do not enter this building.'
"I left Illinois in 1948 for the Navy, and never went back home. It was a year enlistment — that was allowed then. I was a machinist in the Navy, and I've been a machinist ever since."
My doorbell rings. keeping the phone to my ear I peer out the window, wave to a friend. he enters the apartment. I point to the coffeepot in the kitchen, ask Patrick, "How do you feel about your name now?"
"Well, I'm very proud of it."
"Has the name ever done you any good?"
"I don't know if you talked to the Patrick Daugherty in Escondido, the painter. When I was building my house, I went into the paint store to buy some paint and said my name was Pat Daugherty, so they gave me a discount. Then, the manager comes around and says, 'You're not Pat Daugherty,' and I said, 'The hell I'm not!' I'd already got the discount and I showed him some ID and he says, 'You're not the Pat Daugherty.' I said, 'Well, maybe not, but...' And then I went to get some overhead doors and there's another Pat Daugherty who is a contractor and I got the overhead doors at cost because my name is Pat Daugherty."
I slowly push a strip of bacon through three egg yolks and remark, 'Well, Patrick, that sure beats the hell out of anything I ever got."
This is an impeccable fall day in Brawley, California. Temperature is in the high 70s. Laid just underneath the afternoon's warmness is an undertow of autumn. Two seasons at the same time, my little toes tap inside my shoes.
I drive into Brawley on main Street and park opposite the Plantation Hotel. At the city park. Fun in the Sun Expo is going on. The Expo is primarily a crafts show. Fifty-two booths fill the park, most offering homemade paintings, pottery, belts, sandals, thick wooden bookends, ranging in quality from hideous to pretty good. Tucked among the commerce are a half-dozen meet-the-candidates booths. Signs announce Schonover for School Board. P. Vasquez for Brawley City Council. Aguilar for Brawley Elementary School Board.
I walk one block east on main to meet Patrick Daugherty, owner of Desert Shoes and son of Patrick Daugherty, father of Patrick Daugherty, and grandfather of Patrick Daugherty.
I am greeted by a young lady at the door, who turns and calls for Mr. Daugherty. An elderly man steps out from the back room. I give him my business card and say hello.
Mr. Daugherty is 74 years old, five foot, nine inches tall, looks to be 150 pounds. He has a balding head of thin, dark hair and wears thick, black-rimmed glasses. The glasses rest on his large nose, which jumps out of a deeply lined prune face. Mr. Daugherty takes a seat behind his mahogany desk, scrutinizes my card, smiles. I explain my mission. As he nods, I ask where he grew up.
"My dad was a railroader for the Southern Pacific Railroad. We went to Jerome during the Depression because he couldn't work. The railroad had a bump system — seniority, you know. He only had 18 years in, so he was laid off for a while. his area was between Yuma and New Orleans. Yuma to Los Angeles was a different line, same company. My dad died in 1937, had 28 years in by then. I was 16.
"I was 22 when I left home, went into the service in '42, sent to the South Pacific, Navy. Got out in '45.
"I'd worked in a chain shoe store back in the '30s. When I got out of the service, I came home to El Centro and went back to the shoe business. Along about 1950, a couple partners and I bought two stores, one in Brawley and one in El Centro. Later, I bought one of the men out, operated the stores and, four years ago, closed the one in El Centro.
"My accountant told me, 'Close Brawley and stay in El Centro.' Well, I've been living in Brawley, raised our children here, so we stayed here. Clara and I have been married 50 years. We have five children. I educated all my children; they've all been to college."
The young girl who let me in walks to the front window, stops, puts a hand on the door frame, gazes outside. I hear a sigh. The store is quiet, serene.
"Six years ago the bottom fell out of Imperial Valley. I used to have four people working for me, now I have one lady and one part-time girl. Things have been bad; we're going into the sixth bad year.
"I've run a shoe store for 44 years. I sell nothing but quality shoes. I have nothing cheap. I believe service is what's done it. And you've got to be honest with these people, because we live with them."
Mr. Daugherty removes his glasses and massages two purple eyelids, looks up, slowly surveys his empty store. "Shoe shows are held in Las Vegas now. The entire Las Vegas Convention Center is filled with products. I purchase shoes for the next three to six months. For men, for a good shoe, you buy duplicates. Women's shoes are different. I'll buy three or four pairs of what we call 'the heart,' the guts. Women's shoes, in the average sizes, in the heart, I buy more than two pair.
"Back when business was good, when the fad was big on certain shoes, I'd order two dozen 24 pair of the heart sizes, which is 7 through 9. I haven't done that in years.
"Women's shoes, that's the one thing I don't like about this business. Everything is fashion, style. you can by something, and by the time you get it, it may be obsolete. Women's clothing is dynamite. Women's clothing can be obsolete in 30 days. The shoe business is a gamble, so is farming."
A woman walks into the store, middle-aged, vastly overweight, wearing the first polka-dot dress I've seen in months. She looks to her left, then her right, then abruptly turns and leaves. I ask Mr. Daugherty, "Are you called Pat or Patrick?"
"I was Pat most of my life, up until the time I got married."
"Were you teased as a kid?"
"Sure I was teased, people called me Patsy. I have an uncle — Uncle Charlie, he was a railroader too — and up until the time I was 45 years old, he called me Patsy. It was all right because he was my uncle, and he did it with a lot of respect, but I remember, back in '34, having a neighborhood fight because I was called Patsy.
"My dad was Pat. It was always Big Pat and Little Pat. My son is called Pat by my family. his wife and in-laws call him Patrick. But to confuse the thing, this side of my family calls our grandson Patrick. Nobody calls him Pat."
Mr. Daugherty leans back, his body realizes, a musing tone enters his voice. "I've always liked my first name. The problem has been my last name. For instance, I'm often called Doge-Her-T. All my life, it's been irritating the way people pronounce my last name. And now my two sons are getting it. I think it's comical, because they're going through what I go through, having to spell my last name over and over again on the phone, having people mangle it everywhere you go."
"What are your plans?"
"Ten years ago I could have retired, maybe. Today I don't feel I could. I'm a lot older now. I don't know what's going to happen. I'm going to keep working, but we're not alone in this town or in this valley."
Mr. Daugherty and I say our goodbyes. I leave Desert Shoes and walk past the park. Fun in the Sun Expo is gearing down, many vendors have left. I see two women carrying cardboard boxes filled with dolls, paintings, and pitchfork-size wooden salad spoons to a nearby station wagon. An east wind has picked up, gusting hard, blowing paper cups and an occasional balloon across Main Street. I climb into my van and head south on Highway 111 to I-8 and San Diego.
My VW does not have a beater, and as I climb Tecate Divide the van's interior becomes chilly, then cold. Further up, at 4100 feet, I see my breath push against the windshield, notice my fingers have changed colors from a brown tan to lobster pink. Evening has arrived, then moves into a moonless, black night that seems too dark to be real. Passing Manzanita, I notice that the stars appear in the sky. I feel a guilty tug in my mind, realize I haven't looked at a virgin sky in months. I turn on the radio wanting to find some road music, think better of it, and turn it off.
I have refound one of life's great pleasures, to be in the right mood, driving through country at night, alone, the world absolutely still except for a 1200cc VW engine working and winding. This is unaccustomed privacy; there's no one here to watch, no one to know, no task to perform except gliding into the night. Suddenly, many things seem possible. What the hell why not turn right and drive up to Idaho, catch the first now? I lean down and pick up my old, stainless-steel Stanley Thermos from the floor board, pour hot black coffee into a dirty mug, spill some on my leg.
What's in a name?