by Anniel 8/6/16
I have been considering the generations in our family, and realized that I knew my parents and both of my grandfathers, while now I know my children and grandchildren. I, and Bear in his family, each stand in the middle of five generations we have personally known well. We get to see the genetic inheritance we and our ancestors have passed on.
Our youngest daughter, Cate, is here trying to move home permanently, while our oldest daughter, Anna, will arrive in a few hours to stay for several days and get some perspective on her life after some overwhelming surgery and health problems. Both of them have musical talents. Not from me or Bear, but who knows. Anna has perfect pitch and Cate sings. Somewhere they must have had some ancestor who passed that on.
Late last night our youngest son, David, arrived with the youngest of his three girls. His stay will be the shortest and has already caused me to readjust my thinking about both him and our granddaughter.
First off, Dave is a really really big dude, 6’5″ or so, with weight behind it. He was such a skinny kid, but not now. He also has a wonderful basso profundo voice that scares animals and little children when they first hear him rumble, so the cat hid under the bed until she recognized him. I asked if he was still singing and he hung his head and said, “Not so much.”
Then I asked a question I’ve long wondered about, “Do you speak and sing better when you are carrying more weight, or does it matter?”
His answer was interesting, “The doctor would tell me to lose fifty pounds, but I know if I lose more than about twenty-five from what I weigh now, the whole tone of my voice changes and I absolutely cannot sustain the depth and power of my singing.”
That would mean no more rattling of crockery in the cupboards.
His little daughter, called “Red” by everyone, is an interesting soul. She will turn four in just a few days and speaks very little. I understand only “Why?” Repeated endlessly, and “No”, also repeated over and over. The doctors have said she is autistic, but that has become almost a meaningless catch all diagnosis. Her mom and dad are trying to have some genetic testing done, but getting an appointment takes forever.
Last night Dave listed and showed us the following *”cluster” of physical genetic symptoms that, taken together, indicate something is going on differently with Red:
First is her bright red hair, which no one else in the family has. I had not known that red hair can be a symptom of anything before, except for witchcraft of course.
Secondly, she has epicanthic folds over her eyes. Finnish people tend to have the folds, but our family no longer does, or grows out of them very young.
Thirdly, she has something called “Railroad Track Ears”, on one ear, while the other ear fold drops straight down to her cheek. This symptom is kind of subtle and is new to me, too.
Fourthly, she has a pronounced “Simian Fold” on one palm of her hand, while the other one has a few faint marks where the more normal lines are.
Lastly, she doesn’t really speak yet.
Last night Dave was telling us how she acts at her “special needs” pre-school class, and in a dance class they’ve put her in. It seems Red has become the “leader” among the kids, making certain they go where they’re supposed to, even if she has to drag or push them there. She seems to have an innate understanding of their varying needs. If she isn’t there to help them, they are totally lost.
He told me what happens when he takes her out and they happen to see a “special needs” child. He took her to the grocery store one evening and saw an obviously high-functioning autistic boy about seven years old sitting in a shopping cart playing with an iPhone Ap, not looking up at all. Red reached over and touched him. He jerked back and glared as she (David says) asked his name. David translated, “She wants to know your name.”
The boy seemed stunned, and said, “She wants to know MY name?”
Red nodded yes. Dave said the boy got a great big grin on his face and told her his name. Then the two kids carried on a very animated conversation between themselves, which probably neither understood, but they had a great time, laughing often, and when the boy’s mother stepped over to the cart he shouted, “Mom, I have a friend. She wanted to know MY name!”
They were still waving, jabbering and laughing when they parted. One can hope they meet again.
As I watched Red last night I could see what a strong little bugger she is, and it dawned on me that she is built like my Finnish grandfather, who was only about 5’5″ tall. When he first arrived in the U.S. he traveled about as a strong man in a circus. Like him, Red is built like a little fireplug covered in muscle. She exercises her whole body continuously. I told her dad that she reminds me of those dolls we called “weebles.” Knock them over and they keep popping back up.
Now I know that Red is strong and physically tireless, but her greatest gift may be that she can identify the genetic strangers amongst us who need the most care, and she knows what will help them on their own rocky way. They also recognize and respond to her, even though she may not be “like” them.
In our present culture Red’s life affirming traits would not be recognized, and her value as a person would be suspect.
God, our Creator, has given each person on earth (including you and me) certain “gifts” that we can choose to use for good or ill. Ancient Israelites were told by God to always “choose life,” and the prophet Joshua told his people to, “Choose you this day whom you will serve. . .”
Choosing God and His ways, means Red can be such a strength and blessing to her parents, and her gifts give us all hope for her future.
* * *
*I won’t even try to explain, but Google (which should be taken with a grain of salt, especially in medical matters) has descriptions of all things in Red’s “cluster.” Taken singly, OK, but together, that’s a different story. Google says her conditions are almost all part of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, but neither Dave nor his wife drink so that lets that out. David thinks Red may be a “Mosaic” of some sort. Mosaicism is also on Google.