My dad’s birth certificate says Jonathan Wayne but for much of my life I nearly forgot that his legal name wasn’t Wayne. Nobody ever called him Jonathan. He was always Wayne.
As a kid, sometimes salesmen would call his house asking for Jon and we’d laugh at the sneaky attempt to disguise themselves as a friend or family member calling. It was a decent guess to think that someone named Jonathan might go by Jon – but my dad never did. So anyone calling him Jon was clearly trying to feign familiarity.
When he was diagnosed with cancer I started attending all of his doctor’s appointments. I also started managing his meds – requesting refills from his doctors, and checking in with his pharmacy to see when they were ready for pickup.
Early on, when doctors or pharmacists asked for his name to check his file, I’d start to say Wayne before correcting myself. It took several months before I got in the habit of remembering to tell them Jonathan instead.
When we’d sit in waiting rooms for his name to be called, I had to remind myself to listen for Jonathan rather than Wayne. Sometimes they’d say Jon instead. My dad was hard of hearing but even if said loudly, he’d sometimes forget to respond if someone said Jonathan or Jon as that just wasn’t his name, even though it was.
The only medical professional that ever knew to call him Wayne rather than Jonathan was his home nurse. He saw my dad for about three years, and his homecare service was affiliated with a local hospital system that had my dad’s legal name on file so he naturally used that information when they first met. But the home nurse was visiting about 3 times a week early on, and a true relationship formed so it became weird that he didn’t know to call him Wayne. I mentioned it to my dad one day. “Shouldn’t we tell Andy (his home nurse) that your real name is Wayne? He really knows you now..Jonathan isn’t your name…” He kinda laughed at me for saying his name wasn’t his name, but he knew what I meant. He basically said he felt weird correcting it now, so he was just going to let it go. But one day my sister in law was nearby when Andy was over and he heard her call him Wayne. “You could have told me you go by Wayne! I’ve been calling you Jon all this time?!” he laughed. From then on Andy called him Wayne.
Somewhere along the way, “Jonathan” had become normal for us to some degree. He was in doctors offices at least weekly, on average. But rarely was it the same office, or the same nurses. It just didn’t make sense to bother trying to explain that the name on his paperwork wasn’t the name he goes by. We got used to ‘remembering’ that to doctors and nurses (Except the home nurse Andy) his name as Jonathan. For a few years he became Jonathan part-time. He was jonathan in waiting rooms and doctors offices. And we spent far more time in places like that than he or I ever wanted to.
A couple of years after Andy had learned that my dads name was Wayne, we were struggling to get my dad the care that he needed, and Andy decided to step in and call one of my dad’s doctors who wasn’t listening to us very well. He got the doctor herself on the phone and went to explain that he was needing to talk to her about Wayne (last name). She was confused at first, so I pointed out that he said Wayne when his name is actually Jonathan. He explained, the doctor then understood and the call went fine. I remember thinking how that showed how much he really knew my dad. He knew his real name, and forgot about his legal name being different.
A couple days after my dad died I met with my siblings at the funeral home. Someone who worked at the funeral home asked us some basic information about him – his hobbies, his kids’ names, his work history, an overview of his personality. He injected that information into a basic obituary template and printed it off for us to look at, and told us we could customize it as much as we wanted. It said “Jon” over and over. He had just automatically assumed that someone named Jonathan would go by Jon. “Oh, his name was Wayne, so all of these “jons” should be replaced with Waynes.”
Earlier this week my phone rang and instead of showing just a number, it showed a name. A name that seemed semi-familiar, but I couldn’t place why. I answered the call. Apparently, I half-knew the name because it was a local state farm rep. I’ve probably seen the name in commercials. “May I speak with Jonathan?” the man asked.
“Oh. Um. He passed away…”
“I’m so sorry.”
“That’s okay. May I ask what this was for?”
“Oh, just insurance. I had talked to him about a year ago and had let him know I’ll call around this time his year.”
I told my boyfriend that someone had called for my dad.
“Oh, man. That must have been hard to hear his name.”
I almost shrugged. “They said ‘Jonathan’.”
For a long time after my dad passed, almost all I could think about was the cancer journey. 3.5 years of stress, anxiety, and declining abilities. It was rough. And to end that tough period by losing him sort of felt like spending 3.5 years trying to outrun a bus and then getting hit by it. I’ve been grieving his cancer experience, which I think was genuinely traumatic in certain ways – while also grieving his loss. It’s hard to do both at once.
But 10 months out from his passing…I think I’ve finally reached a point where I’ve started to move past processing the cancer part. I’m able to spend a little more time remembering him before he was sick. More time remembering him when he was always Wayne, and never Jonathan.
My dad’s real name was Wayne.
What a touching and poignant account of this life-changing period. Andy sounds like a Godsend. Through the good and the bad, these are all cherished memories. My other half also goes by a different name than his given name. Thank you for writing about your father and your shared journey. Your story is consoling even though it’s about such a hard experience. God bless.
Thank you! <3
And you're 100% correct, Andy was a godsend. He primarily was assigned for catheter care (which he was good at, too) but he was a wonderful advocate for various quality of life related issues when doctors were trying to prioritize other things. We knew my dad's cancer was terminal from the day of diagnosis, and due to that, quality of life was always our #1 priority. Andy respected that and helped a lot. Will always be grateful that he was my dad's home nurse.
I am so sorry for your loss of your father, Wayne. Your story was very poignant. My youngest son has always gone by his middle name as well. I never realized how much that could affect his life. He is 54 now and his name is Scott.