The older I get–meaning the more years I have to look back on–it amazes me how certain characteristics of individuals in my family continue on through succeeding generations. I know very little about genetics, but it seems to me that every family has a specific gene pool from which each member is formulated at birth. I picture the process similar to having dinner at a cafeteria. I see each baby lining up just as the x and y thingies begin to mingle. They slide their trays down the family kitchen counter and select various mental and physical traits that appeal to them and–voila!–a person is made. You’ve seen how it works: sister Sally got the rocket scientist gene; brother Jake got the philosophical gene and so on. I must have passed on the algebra gene, probably because I was distracted by the ice cream compulsion gene. It’s my guess that if you have a basic knowledge of your family’s individual physical and mental characteristics it may not be too difficult to determine what the family’s cafeteria menu has to offer, as random as it often is. It adds a whole new meaning to the question, “What’s for dinner?”
My one granddaughter (I’ve got five varieties of these) is an incredibly talented artist. That’s her sketch of Ronald Reagan. She drew that last year when she was 16. She has never had any formal training. Her great great grandfather, my paternal grandfather, sketched and painted. He was pretty good too, but was not a professional. So the family “art” gene has surfaced twice within the past 105 years. We have as many left-handers.
Personally, I got an interesting mix of physical and mental attributes and they are pretty much split very specifically between those of my parents. My mother was the writer in the family. She pursued her gift all her life but commercial success eluded her. That’s definitely the gene I picked up. The only advantage I have that she didn’t, is that the current technology of independent publishing allows best-seller wannabes like me to be able to produce a book—a physical, hold-in-your-hands stack of bound pages that anyone can buy on the internet. She did manage to eek out a professionally published children’s biography of Jo Davidson. He was a 20th century sculptor who committed to clay or stone most every person of note during the 1930-40s. He did the Roosevelts so my mother subsequently sent Eleanor a copy of the book and I now have the First Lady’s thank you letter framed and sitting just off to my left.
Meanwhile, the physical side of me is attributed to most of my father’s characteristics. We have both been skinny most of our lives, famous for our “bird legs,” large noses and somewhat bowlegged gait. Despite our tendency for thin limbs, my father nurtured a pretty good-sized girth once he hit 60. He was an enthusiastic beer drinker, a prevalent family gene that I did not inherit. Consequently, I always incorrectly attributed his gut to the beer. Once I crossed the 60th parallel I found my waistline mirrors my father’s…and I do not drink. It’s a gene thing and there’s no stopping it. What I would have preferred over a fat gut was some of my father’s brain power. He was a mechanical engineer most of his career. That’s a fancy name for a “draftsman” who mainly produced blueprints of highly technical equipment. Regretfully, I got the infrastructure from him, but not the power plant. Those genes have sat idle for a generation and just may be resurfacing in my young grandson….don’t know for sure yet, but he does seem to be heading that way. I’ll know for sure as soon as I see a pocket protector in his shirt.