The Irish Micheal
Micheal T. Hurley
Last weekend we were visited by our daughter, Meichelle, and her two sons, Owen and Alex. Owen is six years old. His first name is that of his father. His middle name, Micheal, is the same as his favorite grandpa.
As usual, when the boys are at Grandpa and Grandma’s house, they are under a barrage of questions in the third degree. Those questions are not meant to intimidate, but to divert their developing minds off computer games and onto the more mundane aspects of life.
“Owen, what’s your middle name?” Grandpa swiveled to face Owen from the comfort of his Lazy Boy recliner.
Owen looked bewildered as he cocked his head, first left, then right, then cast his eyes at me giggling, “Grandpa, you know, silly you.”
“Yep, I do. What about you?”
Eyebrows furled, he responded, “Michael.”
“Okay, how do you spell it?”
With a belly laugh, Owen turned to Alex. His brother sat in the love seat fixated on the screen while his thumbs danced around the keys of his computerized gaming device, “Alex, Papa doesn’t know how to spell his name.”
Alex glanced up briefly, but without a word turned his full attention back to his device.
“Hey, Owen, It’s not that I don’t know how to spell my name, it’s that many others don’t know. Not even the spell check on my computer. Do you believe that Grandpa has to correct the spellchecker on computers? “
“Oh, Grandpa, you can’t correct the computer.”
“But I do, and you will too. I am just concerned that you know for sure. So how do you spell your middle name?”
“That’s so easy, M-i-c-h-a-e-l.”
“Bleep, wrong. Who taught you that?”
Owen dropped his chin and looked out from under his eyebrows. “My teacher at school.”
“Owen, pay attention, now. Grandpa is going to give you a little home schooling when it comes to spelling your middle name.”
“Mom already did. Then my teacher corrected it.”
Speak about deja vu. When I was a student in grade school, my teachers had me so confused about how to spell my name that I wasn’t positive about the spelling until I joined the US Navy and had to furnish a copy of my birth certificate. Sure enough, there it was, Micheal Terrance Hurley.
Good God, I thought, my mother was really dumb, not knowing how to spell my name. Or, could have been my father? I didn’t know and didn’t want to bring the subject up while they were still among us. It wasn’t until later in life that the answer came to me from Ireland.
As a result of the unusual spelling of my first name I stumbled through life always re-correcting the spelling. I often wondered what those people, who corrected the spelling I had clearly printed for them, thought as they set up a record with reams of paper misspelling my name. In adulthood, I let it slide if it wasn’t important. As I matured and my Irish roots bored deeper into my consciousness, I took a stance. To make it easier, I often put two hash marks under the last three letters, e-a-l. That didn’t make a difference to many who ignored my helpful hint and made their corrections anyway. They must have thought, he spelled it wrong, not once, but, two, three, or more times. How many times do we make an error spelling our given names?
As a kid, I had used Mike, which helped avoid the confusion. That is, until we adopted a dog named Spike. When I was outside attending chores on the farm my Mom would holler out the back door. Was it Spike or Mike? I could never tell. To be on the safe side and to save my backside, I always came running. Most of the time she had called for Spike. I found a great solution, my full name was Micheal and we didn’t have any dogs, hogs, cows, or horses that sounded anything close to that. I became Micheal. Period. End of question, or so I thought.
At school my teachers always went to great pains to make sure I was Michael, not Micheal.
So, I became Mike –Michael-Micheal.
Then, along came computers with this neat little spellchecker thingy. It would just correct all misspellings with a few key strokes. That is, unless you had a word that was spelled correctly. The City of Tacoma learned not to rely totally on spell check when the sent out a computer-generated document to the public. “Public” must have been incorrectly entered at some point in the document and the good old spell checker corrected it. Everywhere it was supposed to be public, it was changed to pubic. Not good for PR when it goes to the tax paying public.
So it is with spell check and Micheal. Every computer I have ever use has Micheal added to its dictionary.
So as not to confuse the printers of my federal law enforcement credentials I always made it clear how my name was spelled. I took to adding “it is e-a-l not a-e-l.
Do you think that made a difference? Not on your life. When the FedEx truck arrived and I signed for my credentials, it was time to go to work. Whoops, there it was again. Michael T. Hurley. Not good. Send them back. Get a corrected set. I always had to build in a delay before I could start using my new credentials.
As a young adult, I developed a complex. Knowing my folks were not educated, I couldn’t blame them for the error. Then along came Micheal Ross, who set me straight.
I was about thirty-three years old and enrolled in an economics class in Ankara, Turkey. The University of Maryland, European Division put on the class at the US Air Force Base. The instructor was a visiting professor from the University of Dublin, Ireland. He wrote his name on the blackboard on our first day of class. Micheal Ross. I was tempted to correct him, but thought that would not be a good way to end class with my desired grade.
At the first break, I waited patiently, and then asked him pointedly about the spelling of Micheal. “Oh, yeah, you Americans always misspell it. It is actually the traditional way we in Ireland spell it.”
“How about Terrance. How do you spell that?
“Thank you so much. I have been a bit confused about how my name ended up being spelled with the e-a-l on the end. I guess my father was more Irish than I thought.”
The class was informative, but the greatest lesson I learned was that my parents weren’t as dumb as I had been led to believe.
Since that chance meeting with Micheal Ross, I have become an avid reader and, on occasion run into an Irish author who shares our first names. I have become a little more forceful in defending my traditional spelling.
“Owen, your mother is right. Your name is spelled Micheal, not a-e-l. People will always be trying to correct it. Don’t let them, okay? ”
“Okay, but what is it again?”
“Let’s make up a song to help you remember. ‘It’s an al, not an eel, la, la la tee da. Al not eel, so say me. My middle name is Micheal with an al, not an eel.’”
“Owen that’s great. Just remember the tune and it will help you remember the correct spelling.”
Owen spent the rest of his visit singing his song from time to time, and grandpa chimed in.
“Grandpa, no, it’s al not eel,” he would remind me, as I confused him with, “my name is Micheal T. Hurley,” interjected into his song.
The car was packed. Owen stood by the back door ready to climb in for the ride home.
“Can you sing your song one more time before you go?”
“It’s an al, not an eel, la, la la tee da. Al not eel, so say me. My middle name is Micheal with an al, not an eel.”
“You got it. That’s good, keep on singing.”
“My name is Micheal T. Hurley; my Name is Micheal T. Hurley, yeah, yeah.” Owen entered the car singing. Carol stood beside me on the porch, her eyes met mine. She turned her arms outstretched palms up. “What have you done to our grandson?” she asked.
“Hey, I’m innocent. He started the ’I am Micheal T. Hurley,’ a couple days ago when we were at the store. “
“Oh, I am sure.”
We waved good-bye as the car pulled out of the driveway.
I turned to Carol, “Do you think he got it?”
“I’m sure he got something, just not sure what, Grandpa!”