Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Genetics

Nurture vs. Nature. That has been a popular question for years among scientist. I too have often wondered about it for my own reasons and purposes. You see, I was put up for adoption by a very young mother who understood that she was unable to give me the kind of life that she wanted for me. Therefore, I was raised by an amazing family who does not share any biological DNA at all.

Growing up, I knew I was adopted but it didn't bother me other than the occasional thought or wonder about why my parents looked like or what they were good at (Did my mom hate math as much as me? Was my dad a swimmer too?).

Growing up, many people would comment to me that they could tell I was my (adoptive) father's child because I looked "just like" him. Daddy and I would just look at each other, giggle, and say thanks. Funny thing is, I did/do sorta resemble him. Dark hair, brown eyes, and we are both pretty tall - he's 6'4" and I'm nearly 5'9" which is pretty tall for a woman. The funniest thing is that we coincidentally have matching moles on our temples! My (adoptive) mother and I don't resemble each other as much. She has very fair skin with red hair and blue eyes and is only 5'2". However, she is my "mommy" regardless.

When I was 18 I suddenly had contact with my biological family. I was adopted through a lawyer who happened to be a family friend. My biological paternal grandmother contacted him and gave him her name/number/address/info in case I ever started looking for my biological family. Being a family friend, he told my mom and dad, who decided to bring the information to me and let me decide what to do with it. I began writing to my biological mother on a fairly regular basis and eventually met her along with her family and my biological father's family.

It was amazing to look at them. Each one, in a different aspect, was like looking in a mirror. I could literally see myself in them. Perhaps it is because I didn't grow up seeing them everyday and was looking at them for the first time with more mature and critical eyes. I have my biological father's straight brown hair, my mother's hazel eyes and face. Both are tall.

But physical traits isn't were the similarities ended. The day I met my biological mother, we were wearing almost the same outfit. Red long sleeve shirts, black pants, and black Christmas vests. Weird and completely unplanned. Then not long afterwards, I was in a restaurant with my boyfriend (of the time). A woman I had never met before in my life walked up to me and asked me if I was {biological mother}'s daughter. Surprised, I answered, "Yes, but I'm sorry, I don't remember you," thinking it might have been one of the many relatives I met. This woman laughed, then told me we had never met but just KNEW who I was because when I walked in, I not only looked like her, but I have her walk and was eating the EXACT same thing she had ordered the last time they had been in this restaurant together. She even added that I sounded just like her too now that she has spoken with me. It was my biological mother's former sister-in-law with whom she is still friends.

Once, in college, I was told by someone who didn't know my family or situation that I have an "engineer's logic" - my biological father is an engineer, but I have always despised math haha. Even though I don't like math, I do have to have things in a logical order and am able to figure out logic puzzles fairly easily. Geometry was my favorite branch of math because I could "see" it whereas algebra just annoyed the crap outta me (Who put letters in my math problem?!) because I couldn't picture the numbers and letters getting along together in my head. My bio dad said he was always the same way. He can picture how things piece together in his head, but his somehow included the more abstract math such as algebra.

I answered my biological mother's phone once, it was her mother. She had a 10 minute conversation with me before she realized it was me and not my bio. mom. Apparently, people used to confuse the two of them on the phone all the time. One of My mother's boyfriends even once asked Granny on a date, not realizing who he was talking to! Now, people confuse me, my bio mom, my half sister, and Granny! All four of us sound identical on the phone. Another thing all four of us do identically is sneeze. Everyone laughs at my sneeze and have my whole life. It's a teeny little who-just-stepped-on-a-mouse type of sneeze. All four of us have the same giggle-inspiring sneeze. Most of my life people have told me that it wasn't a "real" sneeze and to "just let it out" or not to try to hold it in. They rarely believed me when I would tell them that I wasn't doing it on purpose and I would love to sneeze "normally" if for no other reason than to not be laughed at.

My half sister (bio. mom's daughter), and I often think the exact same thoughts at the same time. Now, I know best friends with no relation can do the same thing, but it is usually because they spend extreme amounts of time together. Unfortunately, my sister and I don't. I didn't know her until I was 18 and she was 7, then I was off to college and from then on, I see her a few time a year and that's all. But still, we have adopted the motto of "Get out of my head!" for the times when we do this to each other, such as recently we called each other out of the blue at exactly the same moment.

Even now, 13 years after my first meeting with my biological family, it is amazing to discover which of my traits are learned from my mom and dad, and which are probably genetically encoded into me.

With this comes some negative things also. I now worry that my maternal grandmother's Alzheimer's may be genetic or that my father's hearing loss may one day find me as well (at least I already know American Sign Language LOL). Diabetes is also a huge factor that I will have to keep an eye on.

So what prompted this blog? One of those sneezes of mine that sends my students into fits of giggles! For some reason when I sneezed this time I remembered that my biological sister, mother, and grandmother all sneeze the same way, and smiled.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

What an interesting post! Genetics are so interesting... and fun. It's so neat to me that you were able to meet your birth family and now have a relationship with them. My niece was adopted at birth two years ago and it's a very open adoption... her birth grandparents are literally another set of grandparents - she's a very lucky girl ;) It's so nice that you have that now too. I'm so thankful God gave us families... and I love that they come in many shapes and sizes.

Stats