Below is my response to the Daily Prompt’s Weekly Challenge: DNA Analysis.
“Who am I?” and “Where do I come from?” are questions we begin asking ourselves in childhood but the answers become more important as we age. Understanding our history and ancestors takes on new meaning as we teach our children who they are, in turn. This week I began thinking more in depth about my lineage when I read the weekly challenge. At first, I took it as a personal challenge to analyze my quirks and traits. As fate would have it, I learned more than I anticipated about myself and my family as my writing and the challenge evolved throughout the week.
Sunday night I received a voice message from my cousin who I rarely talk to because life has a way of interfering. And as it does, I did not call her back until last night. The universe has a way of playing with us; the phone call was to discuss our lineage on my father’s side, of which I know little. After catching up and feeling as if I had just seen my cousin yesterday hearing the sound of her familiar voice that sounds so much like my sister, we talked about my father’s family. She offered to send my paternal grandfather’s life story recorded on cassette tapes many years ago, the family tree and old family photos. Though my father left when I was little and was an occasional presence in my life at best, I am still half of him and have deep desire to understand who I am in relation to him.
Thankfully, I know quite a bit about my mother’s side of the family having been raised by her. I caught a glimpse of my maternal grandfather the other day. Though he passed on from this world many years ago, he came back into my life, through me. I hear his voice in mine when I turn off lights during the day telling my kids that we don’t need electric lights on, that the daylight from the windows are our lights. As I pick a minuscule piece of lint off of the floor, I can see him doing the same muttering something under his breath about having just vacuumed. As I drink my nightly glass of red wine, I see his smile behind mine as we tell ourselves that this is good for our blood and we feel strong love for anyone nearby. He is with me and I feel connected with him again.
As I’m drinking my nightly glass of red wine and telling myself it is good for my blood, I feel the nagging worry that I am like my father. While I hear stories that he is in me in my tendencies to make lists or start new projects just for the sheer challenge of something new, I fear that he is there when I enjoy a drink. He took it too far and lost a marriage and family for it. Nothing was enough for him and as I seek a new challenge, I look for more than quick satisfaction but a true passion and deeper meaning so that I don’t give up when life gets hard. The man he was before addiction was intelligent, talented, and musical. He is in me and I take his need for challenge to challenge myself daily. He has challenged me to love regardless of my inhibitions and fear of abandonment. He has challenged me to forgive mistakes and to love despite them.
Looking in the mirror at the end of the day, I chastise my face, notice wrinkles and gray hairs. While I don’t have any major body image issues, I do tend to notice flaws. But as I look deeper, I see my mother. I see her nose and the shape of her face in mine. Looking at old photographs when she was my age, I think how pretty she was and is and then I realize that I look just like the woman in the picture. Seeing my mother’s beauty helps me to realize my own.
There were only a couple of other girls my age growing up who had red hair like me. I was gently teased by peers, as kids will do and didn’t like feeling so different. Years later, I embraced my differences and learned to love them. My mom tells the story of being surprised when I was born and saw the red fuzz on my newborn head. Her mother told her, “Of course she has red hair! She gets that from the Wheat side of the family.” My Uncle Charlie, pronounced “Cholly” by my upstate New York family, had red curly locks and I get mine from him and my ancestors who came to this country from Ireland a couple of generations before him. My locks connect me to faraway lands in distant time and help me feel connected to those long gone but who still reside within me.
Thinking of my mom, I call her to say hello. After a quick hello she goes on to remind me of something that I have no idea what she is talking about when she suddenly says, “Oh! I’m sorry; I thought you were your sister!” This happens quite often because my sister and I sound identical on the phone; a trait we both find very amusing. Even our children have mistaken us for the other on the phone. I love this trait because no matter the divide in our lives when our priorities shift away from each other, our identical voice reminds me that we are never far away; that we are family and are always close by.
These nuances in me are my explanation, my excuse, my bragging right, and my heritage. In the future, I hope my children find themselves doing things or saying phrases they learned from their father and me. I hope my daughter loves herself and sees the beauty in her face that is wholly there and also in parts and pieces of her lineage. I hope my son challenges himself, stays focused and uses his intelligence in all the right ways. I hope both kids find something between them that only they can share so that if the distance ever seems wide between them, they can always feel close. Their ancestry is rich with Irish, English and Thai culture and I hope they connect with who they are and who is within them so that many years from now, they never feel lost.
We can get lost in the business of life and the tedium. There are days I feel alone, different, misunderstood, or critical of myself. It is these very days that I may catch a glimpse of the many people who live within me. It is the lessons I learn from the mistakes they made, the way they lived their lives, the funny things they did or the wisdom they shared that blend with my own unique qualities making me who I am. Thinking of the many faces in me, I am never alone. And with my family forever by my side, I am always in good company.