For My Name’s Sake
Her tiny heart beat into a coffin
and tore you from more than playtime
and afternoon birthday parties.
A child with whooping cough
came to your friend’s party
and made you and your brother sick.
Your sister caught it from one of you
and died at six months old.
You remembered her name,
Patricia Fay, the only sister you had. Your first born came years later,
a baby girl. You named her
Patricia Ann to let her live.
Her brain hemorrhaged into a funeral
and tore you from more than classes
and morning cheering practices.
You always looked up to her
but could never get close—
an older sister has boundaries
siblings can never break through.
By the time you found out,
plans were being made for the service
and you’d forgotten the last place you met,
the last thing said between you.
All you could do was hold on to her name:
Patricia Ann Patricia Ann
echoed through your sorrow and remained
with what little of her you had left.
On a day in October, you heard
the name again and gave it to your firstborn
to hold onto for a while.
Grandma told me the story of her sister.
You told me the story of your sister.
I want to be the Patricia
who lives long enough to be more than just a story—
more than just a sad memory
complete with newspaper clipping reminders
of another life cut short.
This is a poem I wrote years ago upon learning that I was named Patricia after two generations of women on my mom’s side of the family (my grandma and my mom) had each experienced the untimely death of a sister with the same name.
I’m guessing that’s part of the reason my family has always called me Trisha instead of Patty or Pat. The reason I spell it T-r-i-s-h-a instead of Tricia is because my mom let me choose which spelling I liked best when I was first learning to write my name, and Trisha appealed to me more.
My legal name is Patricia Ann Potter, but I have chosen to use Trisha Niermeyer Potter as my nom de plume and for photo credits since I did have a some things published under Trisha Niermeyer.
To see other photos of me as I was growing up, read more about my family, or some other poems I've written, check out my Prints of Grace Website.