Michael Thomas PapaneriI’m in Baton Rouge at the moment doing some work on my Mother’s home. I was up early this morning and making my way to CC’s to get some work done before my first appointment at 10:30am. A little after 6am I arrived at CC’s and as is my usual custom, I began checking my e-mail via my pa1m0ne Tungsten C. I use SnapperMail and I find it easier to clear out my inboxes using my Palm than firing up my e-mail client in Windows.

Anyway, the point is I’m standing in line to place my order and sifting through my inbox when I finally come across an actual e-mail that isn’t SPAM. It’s an e-mail from one of my best friends, Helen Papaneri. She just had a child a few days ago and I figure it’s a birth announcement. As I read the first few lines of the e-mail, the barista asks me for my order. Unfortunately for me, I’m speechless. You see, I just found out that she and her husband named their newborn son Michael Thomas.

I first met Helen in the 8th grade at Glasgow Middle Magnet School. In fact I consider her my first real girlfriend. There was one other girl I had “gone with” (aka gone steady) in 7th grade, but Helen was my first real kiss, so I think that gives her the official title. Anyway, we dated – and I use that term loosely since we were only 13 and just how much real dating can you do at that age – through the end of 8th grade, but she broke it off with me when we graduated. She figured we’d never see each other again after Middle School so I guess she thought it would be easier this way if we ended it before we were big 9th graders.

Turns out we both ended up going to the same High School, so we dated off and on for most of 9th grade before she transferred to another school. We remained friends all throughout high school and even into college. There was always a closeness with us and given that we were so young when we dated it made for an easy transition from “girlfriend” to that of just “friend”.

As friends, we became each other’s occasional relationship compass. I’d begin dating someone and if I felt that the new relationship was a bit confusing, Helen would help me sort it out. I did the same for her on a few occasions. In fact, I remember the first time she told me about a new guy she’d met in college by the name of Tom Papaneri. I could tell from the start that she was really serious about this one and in my gut I knew that he was the one. As luck would have it, he was and they got married several years later. I was even the trumpet player at her wedding.

Now don’t let me give you the wrong impression. It may sound like we always kept in touch and let me assure you that wasn’t the case. During college we may have talked once every couple of months and since college, it’s turned into once or twice a year at best. What’s funny though is that we’ve always been able to pick up where we left off, as if only a couple of days had passed.

I suppose that’s the hallmark of our friendship. Sure, I’d love to stay in contact more, but you know how things are, you get busy with your own life and the next thing you know a year has passed. It’s not intentional, this stuff just happens. So even though our contact with each other may be somewhat sporadic, nothing’s really changed – we’re still close friends.

I last saw Helen back in November. I was down working on the house again and she stopped by to say hey. In tow were her husband and their daughter Sarah. Helen was pregnant at the time and was absolutely radiant. We had a lot going on at the house right at that moment, so we didn’t get to visit like I would have liked, but we were able to catch up some and having a face-to-face was really nice. Laura, her sister and also a very, very dear friend, kept me up to date as Helen went through labor. So I knew about the birth before I received Helen’s e-mail, but I also knew that they hadn’t settled on a name just yet. Even knowing all of this, it didn’t prepare me for the shock of it all when I received the following e-mail.

Hey Mike,

We had a little boy on 1/18. Believe it or not, we named him Michael Thomas. He weighed 9 lbs 15 oz. His picture can be seen at www.womans.com under my name and id [XXXXXX]. His name is listed as Joseph but Tom changed his mind when he didn’t like me calling him Joey. Take care and keep in touch.


Typical Helen, her e-mail is short, sweet and to the point. No fluff, just a little note to say that they gave their son my name. Short though it may be, her e-mail packed a punch like a two ton hammer.

I’m floored. I don’t know what to say and I feel like a fool as tears instantly fill my eyes beyond capacity and slowly fall down my cheeks. It feels like such a silly thing, I mean it’s only a name right? Yet I can’t help but feel unworthy of this honor.

Helen gave her newborn son my name. Mercy

I woke up today having just a normal, nothing special day. Now I’m sitting in a CC’s trying to put into words how I feel and not let on to everyone else in the coffee house what’s happening inside me. My throat feels like I swallowed a grapefruit and my damn eyes just won’t stop leaking. Maybe the other patrons will just think I’m having an allergy attack? Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

Probably doesn’t help that I’m listening to Beautiful by Mandalay right now either. I have no idea how to respond. What do you say to someone who’s given you the honor of naming their child after you?

“Thanks!” just doesn’t seem suffice. NOTHING seems to suffice at a time like this. I’m speechless. I’m humbled beyond belief as the impact of what Helen’s done slowly seeps into my consciousness. This is so unexpected and such a grand gesture that I’m at such a loss for words. So I do the only thing I know how to do and begin cobbling together a entry for my blog…