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  • Name In The Middle

    I was born a third, left the hospital a middle, and have felt like an outsider for much of my life since.

    Seventeen days after the Baby Boom era officially ended, I was christened John Glenn Cook III. Named after my father and grandfather, I was driven home from the hospital to the strains of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s inauguration ceremony on an AM radio.

    Little did I know then, at three days old, that LBJ’s long, drawn out drawl (along with a couple of his social policies) would be one of the things that would help my parents veer permanently toward the Republican camp. For the longest time, I could not reconcile how my father could have John F. Kennedy’s speeches on album and yet claim to be a Republican.

    Of course, I also didn’t realize that being a Democrat in Texas did not mean you were liberal in any way, shape, or form. But I digress…

    My parents, married just nine months and 21 days when I was born, were fresh out of college and starting their careers. For my dad’s parents, my birth represented a number of positives — first grandchild, a namesake, and, most important, another reason my father would not go to Vietnam.

    My grandfather (John Sr.) was an assistant postmaster in Longview, Texas, and was terrified that his son (John Jr.) would be forced to fight in a conflict that many people did not understand. When my dad’s number came up in an upcoming draft notice, he quickly drafted a plan for my parents to get married, noting a deferral that was granted to males who had recently wed.

    So my parents got hitched on a Friday, moved my dad’s stuff 250 miles south over the weekend, and my mom went to work teaching school the following Monday. A few short months later, I came along, not knowing at the time that I already had been part of the first great compromise of my parents’ nascent marriage.

    It goes something like this: I could be named after my father and grandfather, under the condition that my name really wasn’t John, but Glenn. Except for dooming me to a life of filling out forms with a name that I didn’t go by, and facing a lifetime of questions about being named after the astronaut, the moniker on my birth certificate has had little impact on my life.

    Or so I thought.