Thursday, May 18, 2017

Names are sometimes changed to protect the innocent . . . but not always.

Image result for tweedle dee and tweedle dum

I go to reasonable though not extreme lengths to preserve my anonymity in this blog. i don't advertise to supervisors, professors, or other medical school personnel that I blog here, but I know I cannot safely assume that none of them are aware of this blog or of my connection to it.  Many names of acquaintances, past or present, I change, often only slightly.  Where family is concerned, other than omitting surnames, I usually don't disguise much. Most of the first names are real. My number one defense in all of this is that the truth will set anyone free who didn't commit an offense for which one can be incarcerated. It's not libel if it's true. The bottom line is that I probably have more on all of the relatives than any of them have on me. If they really wanted to out me, I suppose they could, but I would come out of the encounter smelling far rosier than the outing relative would. Still, only the family and very close friends have any idea who I'm talking about when I write about a relative.

When I write about people unrelated to me from my past, the people sometimes have professional connections to my parents. To keep my parents happy when writing about such people, I do change names and identifying details. Acquaintances of my parents will never find themselves in my blog, or find my blog, period, by googling their own names. The names I substitute for their actual names are usually similar both in ethnic origin and overall sound. The people I will discuss momentarily, will, likewise, be represented by a different surname than is the one they use legally. I will, however, use the actual first names of the twin sons from the family featured in this late-night edition of my blog. Even using my widest imagination, I could never invent any names so bizarre as were the ones actually thought of  and used by the parents.

In the community in which my family resided before our most recent move lived (and still lives) a urologist, his registered dietitian wife, and their twin sons who were maybe three years younger than my brother and I  but at least four years behind us in school. The urologist, who shall be known here as Dr. Warnock, was a legend among the medical community for his wild hair, his unkempt beard, and his suspenders, which featured Sponge Bob and Patrick from the Sponge Bob Square Pants animated series.  I don't know if the man owned just one pair of suspenders and wore them daily, whether to work, to church, or to mow his lawn during the roughly three times each year that the family lawn was mowed (neighbor complained that the Warnock home looked as though it was inhabited by the Addams Family of the 1960's TV series), or if he owned several identical sets of suspenders. I don't suppose it really matters. 

The Warnock family attended a Missouri Synod Lutheran congregation in the community in which we all lived back then. (I have no idea if the  Warnocks still attend that church or any church.) Dr. Warnock's beard came into play in regard to his church participation because his Lutheran congregation had traditionally followed the practice of taking communion from a communal cup. Many church members were put off to some degree by having to drink wine or grape juice or whatever it was they used to represent the blood of our Lord and Savior that had been contaminated by bits of Dr. Warnock's breakfast or perhaps even dinner the night before that was embedded in his beard until it washed away into the communal cup. If my memory serves me correctly, the congregation very nearly divided over the issue. In the end, a compromise was reached in which the wine or grape juice would be served both in the communal cup and in individual cups. The compromise did not achieve total harmony, as among those who believed the communal cup to be Jesus' way of serving or partaking of communion was Dr. Warnock, and many of the other religiously like-minded parishioners were put off by Dr. Warnock's weekly tainting of the communal cup. This, however, was mostly a matter of curiosity for my family. We weren't Lutherans, and it didn't impact us in any way. The Catholics, of which my family considered and still to some degree consider ourselves a part, solve that particular quandary by having just the priest partake of the wine. He can have either the cleanest or the nastiest beard in the hemisphere or no facial hair at all, but he contaminates only his own drinking supply. Everyone else goes out and buys their own wine and consumes it in whatever sanitary or unsanitary fashion they so choose. This is, I would have to guess, the way God would have it. I say this not just because I'm Catholic but because it makes perfect sense. It's bad enough for the parishioners to support the priest's alcohol habit. Why should the membership pay for everyone else's wine addiction as well?

As urology practices go, Dr. Warnock's was not the busiest one in the area. Sponge Bob suspenders might have offered an advantage in terms of promoting rapport with patients had Dr. Warnock been a pediatrician. With a clientele consisting primarily (though not exclusively) adult males, however,  the idea of having one's intimate body parts probed by a creature who bore more than a passing resemblance to Charles Manson and who proclaimed his individuality by constantly wearing the Sponge Bob suspenders was not highly conducive to the development of a thriving urology practice. Once, at one of the few sleep-over birthday parties I was allowed by my parents to attend, the group of ninth-grade party-goers of which I was a part chose, among other houses, the home of the Warnocks for a game of door-bell-ditch. I  know from personally having rung his doorbell and having witnessed it as he made his way through the dim lighting of the house in the wee hours, that Dr. Warnock wore the suspenders [and nothing else] to bed, though it is an image that will permanently scar my mind. I didn't dare tell my parents why I woke up screaming in the middle of almost every night for the next three weeks.  After all these years, I cannot for the life of me figure out how Dr. Warnock kept the suspenders on his body with no other clothing onto which to attach them. Perhaps he hooked them to something on his body.  Eeewwww!  Just thinking about it nine years later gives my brain a serious case of the creepy crawlies.

Doctor Warnock's wife's single largest source of notoriety or eccentricity -- independent of the simple notoriety associated with being conjugally joined with a man who possessed unkempt hair, a particle-laden beard, and constantly wore Sponge Bob suspenders, was the manner in which she insisted upon being addressed.  I'm not sure even her sister-in-law, who lived across the street from her, was permitted to call her by her first name of Marlene. Neither, though, would a simple "Mrs. Warnock" suffice. Her sister-in-law was also "Mrs. Warnock," but her sister-in-law was married to an attorney, and Dr. Warnock's wife had no desire for there to be any confusion as to which woman was married to whom. Dr. Warnock's wife insisted upon being addressed b everyone in our community as Mrs. Dr. Warnoff.

Mrs. Dr. Warnock had been a registered dietician with the local hospital  until she reached roughly the third month of her pregnancy with her twin boys. It was at that point that she found she could no longer stand, upright or otherwise, without physically supporting with her hands the weight of her twins in utero. This is what was told to me, anyway. I haven't the foggiest notion as to what would have happened to the twins or to Mrs. Dr. Warnock or to her uterus or abdomen had she simply let go. Would the twins have fallen to the floor, stretching the skin of Mrs. Dr. Warnock's abdomen as the babies made their descent? Would the twins have made their descent the more conventional way and have been born very, very early? Would Mrs. Dr. Warnock have fallen forward with the weight of the babies, although if such would have been the case, it's hard to fathom how supporting the twins' weight would have kept that from happening?

Mrs. Dr. Warnock wore some sort of a brace that helped to support the weight of her twins for a brief time, though it didn't stop her from constantly carrying her midsection with her hands as though she were a typical Walmart shopper who had stowed away roughly thirty cans of sardines inside the front of her top or dress in order to better take advantage of the ultimate discount. By the fourth month of her pregnancy, whether due to medical necessity or because the obstetrician could no longer bear the look of Mrs. Dr. Warnock staggering into the office each month manually propping up her intestines, excess skin, babies, placentae, and anything else that might have been in there, Dr. April Ketterman put Mrs. Warnock on bedrest. She was allowed to get up as needed to take care of personal business, and she was required to shower daily, as what was growing on the inside of Mrs. Warnock was sufficient concern to Dr. Ketterman without compounding the problem by creating nests of flora and fauna in various external crevices. 

The twins grew to almost-but-not-quite record proportions before Dr. Ketterman used subterfuge to schedule the C-section against the wishes of Dr. and Mrs. Warnock. Dr. Ketterman had Mrs. Warnock check into the hospital for an ultrasound, noted that there was insufficient amniotic fluid, and announced, "VOILA! There happens to be a surgical suite, complete with staff, available at this very minute. What a coincidence!" This took place in late July of 1997.

Mrs. Dr. Warnock in particular was insistent that the babies could not have been conceived until February at the very earliest, as the wedding hadn't taken place until February 22.  Mother nature was indicating something entirely different, though, as weddings and conceptions do not necessarily occur in all cases in that order. Furthermore, twins usually don't go the full distance of forty weeks. If Dr. Ketterman didn't get those twin caribou out ASAP, there wasn't going to be an operating table to be found that was sturdy enough to support the weight of all three of them. One epidural, which worked on only one side of Mrs. Warnock's body, one attempted spinal (which couldn't be completed because Mrs. Warnock, even though she was feeling no contractions, couldn't hold her body still enough for the anesthesiologist to insert the needle into the proper location, which may also have been part of the problem with the epidural as well), and one whopping dose of milk of amnesia later, the twins joined the world as independent beings -- sort of.

Though ultrasound examination had shown no hint of any issue of the sort, the initial fear of the obstetrician and assisting surgeon upon first seeing the twins was that  they were conjoined at the head, in a condition known in less  culturally sensitive times as "Siamese twins," correctable -- if at all -- only by major surgery. Upon further inspection, however, Dr. Ketterman discovered that Twin #1 had Twin #2 in an unusually binding headlock. She concluded after separating the two  that major surgery might have been simpler than prying the two  warring neonates apart.  Since then, parents and teachers have devoted considerable time to prying the two from gnarly headlocks and prying them off other unsuspecting children. At a summer recreation program, I was once ambushed by one of the twins -- I certainly couldn't tell you which one it was; the truth of the matter was most likely that the twins couldn't tell themselves apart --  because I refused to hand over my Capri Sun pouch when the twin thug demanded it.  I wasn't especially fond of Capri Sun, but the water fountains weren't working, and it was a 105-degree day. It took three of the teen employees nearly five minutes to free me from the grasp of the twin thug.

My parents still aren't certain which parent was responsible for the names given to the Warnock twins, as my parents didn't live in the community at the time the twins were born. After the fact, both parents were so proud of the creations with which the twins were saddled that they both took credit. I would have hid my head in shame when asked and might possibly have blamed the twin indiscretion on adverse reaction to anesthesia or even on a bad acid trip rather than to admit that I ever, in a state of lucidity, thought it was a good idea to give a pair of pet gophers such ludicrous names, much less my children, but there is no accounting for taste, particularly when it comes to naming one's offspring.

I shit you not: Dr. and Mrs. Warnock  named their twin sons Dodd and Todd. I personally have an issue with rhyming names, which are, in my opinion, confusing and cutesy to the point of sickeningness at best, and wholly obnoxious at worst. Todd by itself is a normal enough name, I suppose, although a parent needs to try to think of the possible ways children on a playground will manipulate a name to make fun of the unlucky child who has the name. Todd  unfortunately rhymes with odd, which is a factoid that will not be lost on Todd's classmates. (A children's book that would have been in print when Dodd and Todd were born is entitled Even Steven and Odd Todd.) Dodd, too, in addition to rhyming with Todd, rhymes with odd. But while Todd is, for the most part, a normal name, Dodd is not. Who in his or her right mind would stick a kid with Dodd for a first name whether the kid had a twin with the rhyming name of Todd or not? Purely and simply, the name sucks.

For starters, we have Odd Todd and Odd Dodd, who look so very much alike that they cannot even tell themselves apart.  In addition to resembling one another, Todd and Dodd bear a remarkable resemblance to Disney's version of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum from Alice in Wonderland. The Warnock twins' resemblance to the Disney pair was so obvious, so pronounced, and so well-known throughout the area that when The Enchanted Theatre, a regional community theatre organization devoted to putting on children's productions, chose Alice in Wonderland for its spring production one year, a representative of the organization called Mrs. Dr. Warner to invite the twins to be a part of the production.  Mrs. Dr. Warner lacked the knowledge of the reason her sons came to the minds of the production staff when casting the roles of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  Mrs. Dr. Warnock was so proud that her twins had been sought for the roles that she had purchased tickets for the boys'  extended family members within a week of initially having been contacted by the theatre company.  Her purchase was premature (just like she claimed her babies' births were); after the second of two initial consecutive rehearsals attended by Dodd and Todd ended in brawls that would have made The Undertaker or Pentagon Jr. proud, complete with a broken clavicle, a broken wrist, a dislocated elbow, a bloody nose,  and a very sore groin, (none suffered by the twins but all reportedly inflicted by them by them), the production staff held an emergency meeting at which it was decided that authenticity in the casting of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum would have to be secondary to civility; additionally, Dodd, and Todd were incapable of repeating, much less independently reciting, the most basic of lines. Dodd and Todd were replaced. Mrs. Dr. Warnock demanded a refund on the price of the nearly fifty tickets she had purchased, but the president of the Enchanted Playhouse told her that the money she paid for tickets would be needed to offset the rise in the theatre's insurance premiums.

My dad was on call for one of his monthly E.R. stints one Sunday afternoon when Dodd was brought in by ambulance after somehow falling on the side of a bicycle and impaling his abdomen on the pedal. An injury in which a person is impaled is never a good thing, but in this particular case, no vital organs were affected. skin and what little muscle was there absorbed the impact.  In initially attempting to assess the degree of shock present in the child, my dad asked the boy his name. "I'm either Dodd Warnock or Todd Warnock," the kid answered. "I think I'm Dodd. No, wait, I think maybe I'm Todd." 

My dad was concerned that both the blood loss and the shock were greater than what had been estimated. He suggested that supplies for transfusion be made available in the event that they were needed quickly. Then The kid's blood pressure was taken. It was 140/90, which is somewhat high, but appropriate fir a patient who is in pain. The reading would not have been indicative of major blood loss. It was then that one of the nurses, who had a daughter in one of the boys' classes and who volunteered weekly in her daughter's class, clued my dad in. "He's not in shock. That's not what caused him not to know his name. He really doesn't know whether he's Dodd or Todd. This kid's no rocket scientist."

My parents never intentionally socialized with Dr. and Mrs. Dr. Warnock but sometimes found themselves at the same hospital-related social functions. My dad disliked functions of those sorts, or at least that's the excuse he gives, and he needs to imbibe freely in order to make it through them. Consumption of alcohol reduces what little filter my dad has in the first place. If, at any of those functions, one of the Warnocks ended up anywhere near my dad, he would start in on the topic of what would possess someone to name their twins Dodd and Todd. "Dodd isn't evn an actual name," my dad would opine. Sometimes he would add, "Why didn't you name the other one God. God and Todd Warnock. Maybe it would be a bit blasphemous, but it's closer to a real name than Dodd is.Or you could spell Todd T-o-d. Or you could spell God G-o-d-d.  Or you could just not worry about matching the spellings. Or, better still, you could not even rhyme the names. You could have named them something like Eric and David. Then maybe they wouldn't be the dysfunctional little blobs that they're turning out to be." My mom would inevitably appear and pull my father away before violence erupted.

It's probably good that my parents moved away from that community when they did. Dr. Warnock may have more in common with Charles Manson than just the crazed appearance.


  1. Great story! Missouri Synod Lutherans aren't considered real Lutherans by other Lutherans. They are usually right-wing whackos who tend not to give much of a damn about anyone else. Similar to FLDS only without Joseph Smith. I suspect the doctor was only in it for the money. He didn't want anyone to know that, of course, hence the one pair of suspenders.

    1. It's not hard to believe about the Missouri Synod and the rest of the Lutherans. (I remember an episode of "Cheers" where Woody and kelly almost called off their wedding because Woody was Missouri Synod and Kelly was ELCA. one of my math teachers in high school was a former Lutheran pastor. He told me that the Wisonsin Synod was a bit out there, too.