Chip off the old block

My father just apologized for the genetic flaws he passed onto me. He's probably not aware he apologized, but that's how I'm taking it.

Before he called I was up on a ladder with the wrong size screws, a drill with a dead battery and a runny nose. This once again proved conclusively that home repairs could be done better by a primate than by myself.

Then dad called. I explained the sorry situation and he said, "I can't do that stuff, either."

I said, "That makes me feel better—what a nice thing to say!" Then, as long as we were headed in this general direction, I figured I'd press my luck and suggest, "Maybe this would be a good time for you to apologize for all the bad genes you've passed on to me."

There was a pause.

He coughed and said, "OK" and I took this as an apology (I mean, it wasn't a "no"). It's quite possible he was saying "OK" as in "OK let's stop this foolishness," but he did utter "OK" in the same general time frame as my question, and who am I to be picky about such details. And if merely asking this was pushing it, what can I say, I probably got that trait from him.

It's not that I blame him for my shortcomings (any more). I've reached the age where I'm able to blame myself—often and repeatedly. Still, there are things, like the inability to grow hair on the top of my head, which are inherited and no amount of willpower on my part could have changed. Still, it was my decision to grow a beard, because I figure you might as well comb something on your head, even if its your face.

In fact, sometimes I look in the mirror and see my dad staring back at me. After a momentary flash where I wonder if I was part of some secret cloning experiment, I remember I've always looked like him.

When I was about five, I saw a black and white photo where I was wearing a Mickey Mouse shirt, surrounded by people I didn't know. It turned out to be a picture of my father as a child, and I couldn't get over how he looked exactly like me (though he would say I look exactly like him).

That's when I decided that heredity was all. It was also when I realized I was actually going to grow up to look just like my dad. This is a blessing because it eliminates all mystery in that regard, and it's a curse for the very same reason—where's the surprise? I've always been able to look at him and know that was going to be me in the future.

Today I think my father looks like one of those paintings of George Washington, sans wig. Since he's distinguished and smart, I assume that in a mere 33 years I should be, too. And while I look like him, my personality is like a crock pot of both parents.

All this reminds me how, with each passing year, I am more appreciative of my family—a group of people I tried to avoid for too long.

I appreciate that we look alike and even act alike. Why? Because it explains and excuses so much. My wife can see that some of the stuff I do, apparently for no good reason, actually has a good scientific reason! So, without blame on any parental unit I can simply tell her that certain questionable personality traits are part of a long, if not proud, family tradition.

Since I know stuff I do is genetic, I have to accept the rest of my family's quirks are genetic, too. So how can I not forgive them for being themselves? We are who we are.  We were born this way.

Before we hung up, dad sneezed. He had a cold, too. I thought that was really nice of him.

So here's to successful family get-togethers during the holidays. If they get on your nerves, just remember—they were born that way (and so were you).

Daniel Will-Harris

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If your friends are your family then you can't blame them for your genes, but at least you can commiserate.



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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2005, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.