October 6, 2006

Name Game

My last name is unusual, vaguely ethnic-sounding and has an "x." Although it is a one-syllable name, I am often asked to pronounce it and spell it. "X?" "Yes, with an X at the end. That's it, that's the whole name." These reasons that made me loathe my name when I was growing up. It is a cactus of a name in a flower bed of Smiths and Millers.

Like red hair or a crooked nose, in adulthood, these singular features seem less burdensome. I guess I have gotten used to it. There are a few dozen people with this name in the entire world and we are all somehow related. If someone asks me about another person with that name, invariably, they mean someone in my immediate family.

With one notable exception. Last year, an older man noticed my name on my checkbook and said, "I once knew a guy with that name." Probably my dad, I told him. He attended the University of Chicago. "No, no, in Vienna, before the War." He went on to explain that he dated a woman with that last name and in fact, he met up with her again when they were both inmates in Auschwitz. My interest was piqued, but I had no idea who the woman might be.

When I asked my youngest brother, the keeper of all information genealogical, he told me he knew of this woman, now in her 80s and living in Israel. He was, in fact, corresponding with her grandson, our 4th cousin, twice-removed.

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