Robert Hitt Neil Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Neill dubbed ‘Grunk’ as his grandfather name

Seven months ago from the week I’m writing this, I finally became a grandfather.  Daughter B.C. & John presented us with Sean Robert Irwin, who looks suspiciously a lot like my own baby pictures (yes, Virginia, they did have cameras back then!).

The Kid was dubbed “Sir” when Betsy was doing some monogramming, in which the last initial goes in the middle: “s-I-r,” or Sir.

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Don’t tell the other grandparents, who are distant, but we kept for the first few weeks a “Sir-time” scoreboard, recording on a dry erase board placed on a easel just as you enter the house the number of hours (to the nearest half-hour) that each of us was spending with the new grandchild.

Betsy was 48 hours ahead of me by the end of the first week, but she was also claiming double-time for changing dirty diapers.

Now The Kid is starting to say words that may or may not have meaning to them (“See, he just said, ‘Da-da.’ Or was it ‘Cess-na’?” Cessna is the Labrador).

So, we are being labeled as grandparents, in case Sir actually wants to talk to us before he is old enough to ask for money.

Betsy was easy: her daddy, whose parents came here from Germany, called her “Doots” when she was little, an affectionate pronunciation of Deutsche, while Mr. Adam was called “Dutch” by his friends in Lexington. That was her nickname when I met her at Ole Miss.

So, B.C. & John revived that, for her granny name.

I was a little bit harder: I was “Uncle Bob” in my high school yearbook, and still am not exactly sure why. Of course, I’ve had Lyme Disease, so have an excuse for forgetting.

But I was “Uncle Bob” in college, the Navy, to the youth group at church, in prison with the Kairos International Prison Ministry – even my son-in-law calls me “Uncle Bob.”  

My suggestion was to go with a contraction of that, which my young nephew dubbed me, “Bockle, pronounced “Bock-ul.”

However, they went back to basics: “Granddaddy Uncle Bob” was not proper, and far too long. “Grand Uncle Bob” I liked, since it sounds like royalty, but they thought it was still too long.  

They almost shortened it to “GrandUncle,” then went to “Grunkle,” to shorten it even more. They settled on “Grunk.”

Then I went to the first Kairos State Board meeting, at which I was elected chairman. When I announced that I had just achieved grandparenthood, and that Sir was to call me “Grunk,” the Kairos State Board went into executive session and emerged with what they considered a fitting title: “The Grunk.”

Not long after that, I received a trophy of one of these Power Drinks, formerly called “Crunk.” Someone had done a little alteration to my can, and added a crook-mark onto the first letter, making it a can of “Grunk.”

I understand that an attempt was made to correct the spelling on the side of a whole truck of the stuff, but the perpetrator was caught in the act. I’ve never tasted the drink, for my trophy resides unopened on the trophy self.  

I am The Grunk.

I never knew my fraternal grandfather, for he died of a stroke before I was born. His widow was dubbed “Mema” by older cousins before I was born, as well. Big Robert was the youngest of seven children, so Mema was already named and I had no sayso.  

My mother’s daddy was a medical doctor, whom we called “Doctor” as a natural granddaddy name. His wife was a stickler for manners, and wore a metal thimble on her middle finger for the sole purpose (I thought) of thumping a knot on my head if I forgot to say “Yes, Ma’am; No Ma’am; Thank You, Ma’am; Please, Ma’am.”

You remembered your manners around “Ma’am,” as I – the oldest of four — came to call her for a grandmother name.

Our kids called Big Robert just plain “Granddaddy,” and Miss Janice was dubbed “Annaih,” an attempt at “Janice” by Christie, our oldest. Betsy’s mother chose her own grandparent name, “Gran,” and Betsy’s daddy was killed in a car wreck before our kids had a chance to know Mr. Adam.

“Grunk” will work okay for me, and I do appreciate the efforts of my prison comrades to make it a fitting title: I am The Grunk! You need not bow down.