A Risto by any other name

Fifteen years ago, in the middle of the dotcom boom, among my then-employer’s many brilliant hires was one young lady who, if you ask me, turned out to be the most brilliant of them all. She got a desk on the same floor as mine, and every morning, while minding my own business, I’d watch her walk across the office and sit down at her desk.

And later that same day, while still minding my own business – which I made clear to everybody by wearing headphones and humming Finnish 80s rock songs – I’d see her get up at her desk and walk to the kitchen to get a cup of hot chocolate.

Just another Rolf(e).

A couple of months later, our then-employer held a conference in Bologna, Italy and I was forced to leave my headphones on my desk in Stockholm. During the trip, I got to talking to the fine young lady, and I realized she was one funny bird.

Another couple of months, and hundreds of kilometers of walking around Stockholm, later we were a couple. Wife, formerly known as Girlfriend, had such confidence in us, that she decided to tell her grandmother about this Finnish guy she was seeing.

She was driving around with her Dad and his mother, when she then decided to let Grandma M in on the big news in her life. So there was this guy, and he was Finnish, and…

“What’s his name,” asked Grandma.

“Risto,” said Wife.

Now, Grandma M ad a little trouble hearing, and with Wife sitting in the back and the noise of the traffic and everything, she wasn’t sure she had heard right. So she decided to doublecheck.

“Rolf?” she asked Wife.

“No, Risto,” she replied.

Risto’s not the most common name in Finland, and has never been on the Top 10 lists, and especially not this side of the 1960s. And in Sweden, naturally, it’s even less common. Well, there are less than a thousand of us in this country of ten million, and just last week, somebody asked me if I spelled my name with an H. Anyway, Grandma M just couldn’t wrap her head around the name.

“Rolf?”

“Ris-to.”

“Rolf.”

And Rolf it was, at least for the rest of that trip.

A few years later, in Las Vegas, after we had walked down the shortish aisle of the Little White Chapel, we stopped in front of Rev. Jackson. He spoke beautifully about love, and the importance of marriage. He looked at Wife and said, “Jessica, remember that”, and then turned to me and said, “Ritso, when you and Jessica..”

Rev. Jackson was a fine pastor, and an eloquent speaker, but throughout his speech, he’d come up with new names for me. Apparently, he wasn’t familiar with “Risto”, either. But just like Grandma M, Reverend Jackson didn’t let it stop him from going forward.

“So, Jessica and Rusto, love is patient and kind…”
“And, Reeskow…”
“You have come here today, Rasko..”

And then finally, “Do you, Rusko, take this woman to be….”

Rusko did. It was good enough for Wife, too. She knew.

How does that make you feel?