My gaze wandered over the ruddy man Mother and Granny chatted with. Who was he? Could I trust him? Only a few weeks ago he invaded our family when he married my grandmother, but I didn’t open up to just anyone. Even at age five, they had to earn my confidence. This burly man hadn’t.
“Welcome, Cindy.” Alvin Cofer grabbed me and hugged hard.
One strike against the man. I prefered to keep my distance for awhile, check things out. Could it be that this man was really safe? Mother smiled, as if it was normal to be snatched and squeezed with so much energy. He let me go, and I stepped away.
“I’m going to leave now, Cindy.” Mama opened her arms. “May I have a hug?”
I threw myself at her and relaxed in her embrace. Granny stood by grinning and gave me a special wink. We’d have fun with her. My brother and I could depend on eating lots of our favorite foods when I visited, like cake and cookies. This new husband, Mr. Cofer, bothered me.
My brother hugged Mom, and the two of us waved as she pulled her car onto the man road.
“Come along, Cindy.” Mr. Cofer held out his hand. “Let’s go on up to the house.”
I hung back while my insides cringed. The name ‘Cindy’ sounded uncomfortable, even bad. It reminded me of ashes Cinderella had to clean up. Mother often commented that she named me Cynthia in order to call me Cindy, but I never liked it. On the other hand, Cynthia brought magical thoughts to mind. A queen would call herself Queen Cynthia, and everyone would have to bow. Enchanting.
Mr. Cofer squatted down. He smelled of cigarettes. Ugh! The evening sun brought out the red highlights in his hair. We had brown and blonde hair in our family. The red felt hot and uncomfortable. But his warm blue eyes gazed into mine.They didn’t seem scary.
I knew I’d best reply, or else take his hand. Words popped into my mind, but I swallowed. I’d made a promise to call him grandfather, but my tongue didn’t want to say it. “Granddad…could you call me Cynthia?”
His face lit up. “Sure, Cynthia.”
I took his hand.
He gave me a broad smile and picked me up. “This hill is pretty steep if you aren’t used to climbing it.” He walked toward the white house. “What treat would you like after dinner? I have a store full of goodies. What’s your favorite candy bar?”
I shrugged. Mom allowed us a little candy, but not enough to know what to ask for. Alvin Cofer owned a country grocery store and he had myriads of things my brother and I never dreamed of.
Over the course of several days, my new grandfather called me Cynthia without failing once. I’d think about my name and the beauty of the syllables as they slid from your mouth. At times I practiced with different inflections. After awhile I settled on a new way to say it with emphasis on the last syllable. The unusual pronunciation pleased me.
One afternoon I approached Mr. Cofer with a request. Even after all his kindness, I worried. Would he think me silly? Momma would. I could imagine asking her and see her face grow tight. Granddad gave lots of hugs during the week. Maybe, just maybe he’d indulge me. “Could you call me CynthiAHHH?”
“Of course, CynthiAHHHHH.” His blue eyes twinkled.
It sounded like heaven to my ears, and I danced away grinning.
A year passed. I thought more about Cynthia, and the proper way to say it. At the mature age of six I realized that the music could be found in the first syllables, rather than the last one. Besides every time Granddad used my pronunciation, Mom rolled her eyes. I asked him to use the accepted pronunciation, and he agreed. That made me happy.
Even though time brings changes, I still love the name Cynthia. Now I enjoy its history in addition to the sound. My new grandfather died when I was nine. He won my heart, and his passing made me sad. I lost my mother a few years ago and my father soon afterward. The death of my parents left a huge void in my life. Their love served as an anchor. In their absence, however, I felt free to make a choice. Now I spell my nickname Cyndi. It looks more like my real name—the one on my birth certificate.
Despite the change, I’m the same person, who is growing, reaching out, seeking Christ.
Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.