Epigenetics in Motion

After a fairly mundane visit to see my parents and new siblings, I found myself drowning in something awful — feelings. Throughout my life I have struggled with feelings or rather the control of feelings. This last family visit was marked by the occasion of my father’s 55th birthday. My mother prepared enchiladas and I took up a conversation with her while my father sat quietly on the couch holding my two year old sister in his arms and watching my three year old brother sleep. This is the typical scene of my periodic visits aside from my usually active little brother being tuckered out on the couch.

Yesterday, the dialogue with my mother took on a slightly different tone. My father was visibly sad and thanked me for coming by which I didn’t understand until after I left. My mother went on to tell me that his family, who are all still in Los Angeles, rarely call him up to wish him a happy birthday. This was not too great of a surprise since I never receive birthday calls from them either. What truly struck me is that his own mother never called him for his birthday. My sweet grandmother who played a significant role in raising me was painted in a color I had yet to detect. The bluest of blues covered her canvas in my mind for the rest of the night. It made a lot of sense in retrospect.

My father is a man of very limited verbal expression. A man that I heard mostly no’s and maybe’s from in my youth and who didn’t say yes with words but with action. I began to understand why his communication was sparse and why I never heard the words, ”I love you” until just recently. It was so simple and yet I had never connected the dots. He was a reflection of his mother. She is also a very introverted person who doesn’t speak of things that may hint at vulnerability.

For the longest time, I passed off the behavior as pure self-preservation. I kept my mind open to the possibility that perhaps not speaking of your pain would somehow curb it or at least ease it. Holding onto it would equate to self-control, strength and building character. I know better than that now. I have been to therapy and keeping your pain to yourself gives it teeth. Those teeth go on to dig into your insides, emotionally and physically. Taking all of this into consideration led me to a swimming hole full of tears. I hadn’t poured out like that in a long time. I had forgotten what it was like to face deep seated issues and the temporary depression that comes along with the reconciliation process. You see, I spent my share of time in my grandmother and father’s genes and had I not had a progressive and supportive partner in my life I could very well still be wearing them with stubborn pride.

What was more painful than recognizing where my character is rooted is knowing that my grandmother and father remain in that place and likely will for the rest of their lives. It is a lonely place. I would not wish it on anyone. Now and then I’ll find myself there again. That’s why there is so much value in making these connections to further understand our family tree and address the impact it has had on who we are. We must push on and focus on the fact that who we are is not as important as who we choose to be.

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