I kept my maiden name when Chuck and I married. It was, in fact, a condition, so to speak. Not long after he’d proposed to me, I approached him one day and told him I had something I had to tell him.
My first marriage was emotionally and physically abusive and ended in divorce. It took me a long time to find my center again, once I’d gotten away from my ex. I took back my maiden name at the time of my divorce and I recall, once the judge banged the gavel and declared me divorced, stepping up on the railing that ran around his high desk, and reaching across to shake his hand, thanking him for my freedom.
So, I told Chuck, I wanted to keep my maiden name when he and I married. I’d fought long and hard and my own identity was important. He breathed a sigh of relief and said is that all? I thought you were going to say you didn’t want to marry me!
Chuck was proud of me over the years of our marriage. He kind of liked it that I had my own name, and he encouraged my independence.
Somewhere in our 20th year, he asked me one day if I’d re-think taking his last name. For no particular reason; just that he liked the idea of sharing our last name. I did consider it but I was building a name professionally, with my maiden name, and didn’t want to muck that up. So I stayed Miller.
In our 23rd year of marriage, out traveling on the road as Happily Homeless, the question came up again. He said it differently that time, and I really, really, thought about it. I could feel his feeling about it, but I hesitated again. I was so attached to my name; it spoke to who I was, even if it no longer mattered professionally. There was, on his part, understanding but some disappointment also.
Why do I bring this up now? Because, running around in my mind and my brain in the last few days, I’m thinking about his request again. Maybe taking his last name now will give me a closer connection to him, now that he’s no longer by my side. Of course, I know that connections happen in the heart, in our minds, but I acknowledge, too, that what we do externally can affect a change internally and perhaps taking his last name of Dearing would give me a further sense of that connection.
I don’t know yet. My heart is still ruminating over the idea. Practically speaking, I can’t afford it at the moment, in any case. But it’s interesting to me that, 4 years out from his death, this idea is rising up in me again.
Alison Miller or Alison Dearing?