Who Are You?

“Yet in my lineaments they trace
Some features of my father’s face.” Lord Byron

As a kid, people said, “Martha Ann looks like Bill.” (My dad) In my late forties/early fifties I realized how much I looked like my paternal grandmother. And NOW? In later life the invisible internals of those people begin to assert themselves.

Genetic science is interesting, but, of course, you have to pay to find out the really good stuff, stuff beyond your eye color, hair texture, whether you like cilantro or not (I do), etc. You know, stuff you already know. Except I was pretty excited to learn that I have the “sprinter gene” which means I run fast for short distances. I did. And, beyond that, I see the benefit in that when escaping from Smilodons and such back in the day. I haven’t paid and won’t.

Maybe in the future, it will be part of a kid’s first medical exam. My dad and I talked a lot about death and one of the things we agreed on was that it was better that he went through his life until age 35 or so not knowing he had MS and where that was likely to lead. We pondered how a person would live life if they knew at the get-go when and how they were likely to die. The upshot of our conversations on this topic was always that death isn’t the important thing. Life is the important thing.

I wonder, though, how much personality is genetic. I’m a very tough, resilient and optimistic little person. Was my personality the result of my own lived years, or did I come into the world with this as an edge against the bad stuff that was going to happen? My mom used to say of my paternal grandmother, “You’d think that the life she’s lived would show but it doesn’t. It seems to pass right over her like nothing happened.” I can’t speak much to that because I don’t know the details of my grandmother’s life other than her own mother dying of diabetes when my grandmother was still a little girl, marrying my charismatic but alcoholic grandfather, living through 2 world wars, grandpa going to prison for 2 years, her son getting MS and dying at 45 — wait, do I really need MORE than this?

And IF these traits are passed on genetically, how would they track them? This adds a new dimension to the whole question of the invisible and ineffable.

In daily news, I brought home everything from the museum yesterday and put it away. The best part of yesterday was seeing 30 or so Sandhill cranes circling above me as I unloaded my paintings. I don’t know why I love those guys so much, but I do. ❀ I ordered new notecards for the museum and my Etsy store. They should be in stock in a week or so. I don’t know what art project is on the horizon. I expect to use these unseasonably warm January days to cut plywood.

Paintings I’ve converted to notecards (so far) there may be others…

The featured photo is my paternal grandmother — Helen Berggren Kennedy — my brother and me sometime in the early 1960s. The little tree on the end-table is a tumbleweed I flocked and hung little red balls on. My mom saw it in a lady’s magazine and sent me out to find a tumbleweed. It was a cool — and beautiful — project and I still think of doing it again every Christmas. πŸ™‚


17 thoughts on “Who Are You?

  1. Interesting reflections on life and death, Martha. And those cranes! There were fields in Michigan we would sometime pass and see what appeared to be almost 100 of them pecking away at something or just standing there majestically. It felt magical!

  2. There have been plenty of twin studies that showed identical twins separated at birth for adoption out to parents of a widely different sociological background end up being very similar in many social and psychological ways, much more than nonidentical siblings. I would not be surprised if things like optimism or artistic inclination had some kind of genetic component.

  3. The age old question of nature versus nurture… or in this case genetics versus environment. I think we learn from our interactions with others and we build on our natural (genetic) proclivities. So we are our parent’s children and yet we are not them! Love the cards – and I’m a little sad that the show has come down… Maybe another one in the summer??

    • I’m looking for another show. As for painting and nature vs nurture. I’ve had little support for being a visual artist. My mom was opposed; many of my art teachers told me I had no talent. That’s why I am so curious about this. πŸ™‚

  4. So you know I found my birth mother this year and her family. I fit in completely. In my case, personality seems genetic.

    • I know — and I think that’s amazing. The post you wrote about it was great. I think personality is largely genetic. and kind of mysterious. All my adult life I’ve been a kid magnet. Babies I don’t even know will crawl into my lap. It’s bizarre. Once a little girl who was walking with her dad, holding his hand, saw me coming toward her, dropped her dad’s hand, took mine and started going the other way with me. Nuts. My maternal grandma was the same so there’s something there that probably neither my grandma nor I can define or control.

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