DNA

Posted: November 28, 2009 in Family, Headspace, Memory Lane

This is a photograph of an oil painting of my mother, Carol, and my father, Sidney. According to my uncle (who sent this to me in last year’s big box o’ memorabilia), my mother had this painting commissioned for their wedding portrait.

This is one of the very few images that I have of my mother, and the ONLY image that I have of my father. It was a shocking revelation to see just HOW MUCH I look like my father. I mean, see?

My nose, my cheeks, my chin, the shape (and color? are his blue?) of my eyes… good grief, I’m his clone. My uncle says I have my mother’s eyebrows and eyelashes, skin, and hair texture (and I had her teeth, with those damned fang-like eyeteeth that needed to be braced into submission). My personality, though – according to my uncle, my upbringing, and my memories – is a mixture of my mother and my grandmother. My ability to cook, common sense, and just the way I “go about things”, Uncle Fred says, I get from my grandmother. My sarcastic sense of humor, optimism, and ability to dance I get from my mother.

We can argue “nurture vs. nature” all day long; I maintain we are a sum of our internal make-up and external influences. There’s a thought that I have buried in my head, though, that I can’t quite get out right. Something about the external qualities that my father’s DNA bestowed upon me, and the internal qualities that my mother’s DNA gave me. And how I’m really glad that it turned out that way, because (given the stories that I’ve heard about him) I’d much rather LOOK like my father, than THINK like him.

I don’t know the people in that painting. Not at all, not even a little bit. All I have are stories from my uncle and my sister, and very VERY faint memories of day-to-day life with my mother (who died when I was eight, and was in and out of the hospital for all of my life before that, so that I spent more time at my aunt’s and grandmother’s than I did at home). Since my parents got divorced when I was three, and my father had no visitation rights whatsoever, I don’t have any memories of him at all. As far as I understand it, he’s still living in my hometown in Maine. What circumstances prevented him from trying to contact me at all, either when we still lived in the same town, or since I’ve grown up and moved away, I don’t know. My sister (from my mother’s first marriage, but we never considered one another as “half”) says he’s married with children grown – I have half-siblings out there that I’ve never met. And while my sister says I’m very much better off for not having any kind of relationship with my father (and she, being ten years older than me, would know), I still wonder, sometimes. Really, I just wonder why he’s content to have it that way. Does he think that he’s better off, or does he think that I’m better off?

I just wonder. I wonder what it would be like to be someone’s daughter. I wonder what it would be like to call someone “Mum” or “Dad”. I wonder what it would be like to know those stories about myself that everyone else seems to know about themselves – first steps, first words, that time I cut my own hair, the first time I tried to ride a bike. Hell, I don’t even know what time of day I was born – it doesn’t say on my birth certificate. It’s a frustrating, half-orphan state, really. And it makes me sad, sometimes.

It also makes me unbelievably grateful for my grandmother, who raised me and (in my humble opinion) did a stupendous job. She was almost my whole family, and I miss her terribly.

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Comments
  1. crisitunity says:

    I can’t speak to the wondering/frustrating/family stuff, but from the pictures of you I’ve seen when you’re not full-on grinning, I think you look like a mix of your parents. I also think your mother is unbelievably lovely in this picture. The painter put the blushing in her bride, but I think the sparkle in her eyes is natural.

    • Tiffany says:

      My grandmother took up oil painting in her later years, and she re-did a version of this painting with just my mother in it. Somehow it ended up looking MORE like my mother (more character in the face, I think?) than this painting does. Next time I’m in Maine I’ll take a picture of it (it still hangs over the fireplace though it’s my uncle who now inhabits the house) so you can see the difference.

  2. Kami-O says:

    Yep, u do look like your pops. Not a bad thing though, and if he’s a messed up person then hunny u r better off. For the record, I look like my pops too!

  3. Kimmothy says:

    What a fantastic picture; I’m glad it’s now in your possession.
    As someone who’s fascinated with family history (and Brian is pretty much obsessed with his like most southern people are), I can understand your frustration and sad feelings about this. Also as someone considering going down the road of adoption, there are many many questions bumping around in my head regarding these types of issues I’d potentially have to deal with someday from my child. There’s a show coming on (I think this week) from the people who do Extreme Home Makeovers about families reuniting and I’m looking forward to what is sure to be a big, snot-dripping cry-fest.

    • Tiffany says:

      I’m glad too, though it was a WEIRD feeling to receive it in the box with the other stuff, unwrap it, and see their faces. Totally unexpected, since my uncle didn’t mention he had it, let alone that he was sending it to me.

      SO avoiding the new reunion show. Like I need anything else on TV to make me blubber.

  4. jadesymb says:

    your smile is all him too!!! FREAKY. i Don’t think I look that much like either of my parents!

  5. Megan says:

    Are you sure you didn’t Photoshop your face onto the painting? Uncanny.

  6. […] Don’t know why. It’s true. […]

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