Having grown up across just across the border from Illinois, I took particular relish in poking any fun I could at the Land of Lincoln.
Have you ever heard Illinois called The Sucker State? I have. It's a now antiquated nickname that I was taught it as a child and have never forgotten. Much like "Hoosier," there's no solid explanation for the genesis of "Sucker." If I had to guess, I'd blame it on Missouri.
Unlike our cherished nickname, Illinoisans' insulting moniker didn't really stick.
But I held on to calling them Suckers. It always seemed a great way to describe those reckless-driving, Illini-cheering neighbors to the west who always seem to be sending their governors to prison. (It's four of the last eight, for those of you scoring at home.)
My dad worked at Quaker Oats in Danville, Ill., so even as Hoosier fans in Boilermaker country, the twice-annual Indiana-Illinois basketball games were the most intense in the Jernagan home. Doubtless, Dad taken flack about Bobby Knight for several days, and he had certainly fired back with his own barbs about Lou Henson. No one wants to be wrong after that kind of exchange, so the tension in the air was tangible for the games.
I went off to college and gave all kinds of grief to my Chicagoan roommate, a tradition I continued with my two Illinois-native co-workers here at the Banner Graphic. (On a side note, Illinois isn't all bad. I'd list Dick Butkus, Cheap Trick Eric Bernsee, Lauren Boucher and Sen. Paul Simon's bow ties among the best things it has produced over the years.)
But veiled by all of my smart aleck remarks about corruption and basketball and driving was one inescapable fact: I was born in Illinois.
That's right, on Dec. 8, 1980, Jared Matthew Jernagan was born in Lakeview Hospital in Danville, Ill.
Likewise, my brother Sean was born almost 10 years earlier in St. Elizabeth Hospital in Danville.
And some 31 years before that, my father, Norman Eugene "Jake" Jernagan was born in the tiny hamlet of Antioch, Ill.
It's this latter fact that has been causing my brother and me some consternation for the past few weeks.
Dad, unfortunately, is not in the best of health. Having battled dementia for at least half a decade now, he had a bout with pneumonia earlier this month that landed him in the hospital for more than a week. While he was in the hospital, it was strongly recommended to us that we find a way to provide long-term care for him.
One of these options is the Indiana Veterans' Home in West Lafayette. If we want to pursue this avenue, we need his birth certificate, a document neither Sean nor myself has ever seen.
No problem, right? Just call the Vermilion (just one 'l' west of the border, mind you) County, Ill., Clerks' Office and have it sent our way. But the conversation was beset with problems from the beginning.
Sean: My dad was born in Antioch, Ill., so we're needing to get his birth certificate.
Clerk's Deputy: Antioch? Isn't that up by Wisconsin? (For anyone unclear, Vermilion County is nowhere near Wisconsin.)
Sean: Yes, I know there's a town named Antioch up that way. But there's also a little place near Rossville called Antioch ... I know where it is ... There's not much to it, but I know there's the Antioch Grain Elevator and the Antioch Church of Christ there.
The Antioch misunderstanding aside, the clerk found what we needed -- almost.
What she found was a birth certificate with the right date, first name and middle name, but the wrong last name.
As far as the State of Illinois is concerned, my father is named Norman Eugene Jemagan.
This saga was becoming a bit of an identity crisis for the entire family, let me tell you.
The clerk went on to tell my brother that she had several birth certificates for Jernagans in the years around my Dad's birth. Sean replied that these were almost certainly Dad's sisters, whose names had been transcribed correctly.
The problem has been pinpointed as someone messing up when they transferred the original, handwritten record to a digital form. Apparently the "rn" of Jernagan ran together and became the "m" of Jemagan.
It's nice to know how it happened, but none of this really helps in our current struggle. The problem can't be resolved in Danville, so my brother is now trying to deal with officials in Springfield, that den of future felons (I can't help myself), to get things straightened out.
After almost three weeks, I'm not sure we're any closer to resolution, just a lot of mixed messages coming from Danville and Springfield. I suppose there's one consistent message coming out of it all: We can take care of this, for a price.
Nice to see Rod Blagojevich's spirit lives on.
More recently, I've come across a new problem. We're trying to sell Dad's old motorcycle to the next door neighbor, but we can't find the title. After a number of false starts regarding the cycle's VIN, we finally got the missing digit figured out and a proper title search performed.
There's just one problem, the title isn't registered in Indiana. For no reason any of us can figure, it's registered in -- you guessed it -- Illinois.
And so begins another saga of dealing with the bureaucracy in Springfield.
I'm beginning to think I'm the sucker here.